FORESTVILLE - It took them nearly three quarters to get going, but, oh, did the Dunbar Poets get rhyming yesterday against Forestville.
Sixteenth-ranked Dunbar trailed the entire game until the first minute of the fourth quarter when it took a one-point lead on Ciarra Jones' basket. The Poets outscored their opponent 17-5 in the final period and went on to post a 48-39 victory over the Knights in the Class 1A South regional girls basketball final.
The 6-foot Jones and the other Dunbar seniors earned the chance to win a fourth consecutive state title at UMBC. The Poets (19-4) open in the state semifinals at 9 p.m. Friday against the winner of the Rising Sun-Loch Raven North regional final.
Horrendous foul shooting in the final quarter by the Knights (17-6) of Prince George's County, who made three of 11 attempts and finished 11-for-26, coupled with Jones' scoring eight of her 13 points in that stretch were crucial factors.
"Ciarra is positive and when she gets a couple, it gets us going," said Dunbar coach Wardell Selby. "We call her Big-C, and she came to play in the second half."
Trailing 34-31 to start the fourth quarter, the Poets cut the deficit to one on a put-back by Jones. Two more baskets by Jones and Dunbar had a 37-34 lead with 6:45 left.
"I told the girls you have to play four quarters to beat the defending champs," said Forestville coach Vince McDuffie. "And before the start of the last period, I told them that Dunbar had another run left in them. They did, and we didn't answer."
A pair of free throws by Nikina Hill, who tied Jones with a team-high 13 points, increased the margin to 39-34. Jones and Hill then scored back-to-back for a 43-34 lead with 5:04 left.
"We said it's now or never, and I buckled my belt and came out to play in the second half," Jones said.
Forestville, shooting for just its second regional title, the other in 1984, jumped out to a 15-4 lead. But by the end of the first half, Dunbar had cut the deficit to 21-17.
A huge rebounding game by 5-11 senior Jackie Moses kept the Knights in command. She finished with 24 rebounds, 15 on the defensive side alone.
Forestville went on a 9-0 run late in the third quarter to take a 33-23 lead with 1:29 left.
That's when the Poets got rolling with an 8-1 run to close the period.
"Coach Selby put us in a 1-3-1 [zone] defense, and we shut down their No. 11 [Yalonda Lavender] to stop their offense," said the Poets' Shalane Price.
Lavender had a game-high 16 points, but she scored only two free throws in the final quarter after the defensive switch.
D-Jones 13, Price 8, Leake 4, Sullivan 5, Hill 13, Chase 3, Johnson 2. Totals: 16 14-20 48. F-Howard 6, Lavender 16, Moses 7, Simmons 2, Terrell 2, Craig 6. Totals: 12 11-26 39. Half: F, 21-17.