Southside KO's champion Dunbar

Second-year Jaguars end Poets' run of 4 state titles, 54-52, earn final four spot

Class 1A South girls basketball

High Schools

March 06, 2004|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Southside coach Daphne Lee is aware of Baltimore City's girls basketball tradition. In the mid-1980s, Lee was an All-Metro performer at Walbrook, whose battles with Western were often for the area's No. 1 ranking. Since coming to Southside four years ago, Lee has seen Dunbar rise to new levels with four consecutive state championships.

Yesterday, Southside took a major step in possibly becoming the next power, knocking off the host and No. 20 Poets, 54-52, in the Class 1A South region championship game. In only their second varsity season, the Jaguars are headed to the state semifinals.

"We're a young team, but all season long, I've preached mental toughness," said Lee. "It's not always about the physical preparedness. If your mind isn't right, you'll make the little things real difficult."

The Jaguars clinched the regional title when Dunbar's Ashley Gladden missed the first of two foul shots with no time remaining.

Southside, which has just one senior, is the third team from Baltimore City to advance to the state semifinals. Friday night at UMBC, the Jaguars (16-6) will meet either Queen Anne's or Pocomoke at 7.

Sophomore guard Tiffany Lewis led all scorers with 22 points for Southside, and freshman Sheree Ledbetter added 12. The Poets (15-9) were led by Jolunda Loacke's 15 points and 12 each from Nikiaa Hill and Gladden.

Lewis' basket with 28 seconds remaining gave Southside a 52-51 lead. Hill missed on the other end for Dunbar, and Ledbetter grabbed the rebound but was called for traveling with 18.6 seconds left. After a Poets timeout with 12.2 seconds left, Hill was called for traveling.

The Jaguars increased the lead to 54-51 on two free throws by Lewis. Dunbar gained a reprieve when Jaquanna Henderson was fouled with one second left. Henderson made the first free throw but missed the rim on the second attempt. Southside failed to get a hand on the ball on the inbounds, turning it back over to the Poets.

Henderson found Gladden cutting to the basket, and Gladden was fouled with no time left.

"We just couldn't give up," said Lewis. "We had to keep fighting and fighting no matter what, and we won."

The Jaguars defeated Dunbar at St. Frances' holiday tournament, but the Poets humbled their South Baltimore counterparts on Southside's home court in the regular-season rematch.

Dunbar had its 84-game home winning streak ended by City in the city finals. Yesterday, the Poets' attempt to become the first team to claim five straight state championships ended.

"We'll get over it. I'm proud of the girls," said Poets coach Wardell Selby.

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