Dunbar's Devante Wallace, left, knocks the ball from… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
COLLEGE PARK — A span of 30 seconds early in the first quarter of Friday's Class 1A state semifinal between defending state champion Dunbar and pesky Owings Mills provided more than a hint of things to come.
Dunbar's 6-foot-4 junior forward Aaron Parham followed a miss with a thunderous dunk. After the No. 4 Poets got another stop at the defensive end, junior guard Rodrick Harrison spotted up on the left baseline and found nothing but net for a 3-pointer.
In a rematch of last year's state championship game, the Poets once again proved bigger and stronger, quicker and more skilled, and simply too much for No. 14 Owings Mills to handle.
In coming away with a comfortable 76-50 win, the Poets (23-3) will look to add to the program's 12 state crowns when they take on Williamsport — a 67-48 winner over Pocomoke — in Saturday's championship game back at the University of Maryland's Comcast Center. Game time is set for 1 p.m.
Senior forward Devante Wallace scored a game-high 22 points and had 10 rebounds for the Poets, who shot 60 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from behind the 3-point line. On Saturday, Wallace and the Poets plan to end the season like so many others at Dunbar.
"Dunbar has the tradition of winning championships … and having a chance to win it again is just a real good experience," he said. "Being a senior, I want to go out getting a ring."
This is the third time in a span of a year that Dunbar got the best of Owings Mills.
In last year's title game, the Poets pulled away in the fourth quarter to claim a 64-53 win. This season, Dunbar came away with a 73-51 win on Jan. 21 at the Basketball Academy at Coppin State. The separation spread further on Friday.
The Poets jumped out to a 9-1 lead — Harrison's 3-pointer with 3:40 left in the first quarter providing the margin — and later got their first double-digit lead when junior guard Evan Singletary converted a three-point play for a 16-6 lead with 1:43 left.
With a balanced attack — four players scored six or more points in the first half — and the Eagles shooting 22 percent from the field in the first half, the Poets' lead steadily grew to a 32-17 advantage at the half.
"I think we played well overall as a team. We shared the ball very well and played great defensively. We basically executed the game plan almost to a T," said Dunbar coach Cyrus Jones.
Despite the setback, Owings Mills coach Rick Epps was proud of his team's season. The Eagles went 23-4, captured their second straight region title and have a junior-dominated roster to continue the positive trend.
"We shooting as bad as we did and [Dunbar] shooting as well as they did, the hole just got bigger for them and tighter for us," Epps said. But I'm happy about our season — 23-4 — and three of the four losses were to defending state champs and then a quality Lake Clifton team."
OM – Jenkins 9, Smith 10, Wilson 15, Thomas 7, Eber 2, Brown 2, McNair 3, Gamgebeli 2. Totals: 18 8-15 50.
D – Alston 9, Singletary 9, Parham 14, Harrison 8, Wallace 22, Pretlow 4, Brown 4, Young 4, Henriques 2. Totals: 29 13-20 76.
Half: D, 32-17