No. 6 Dunbar handles Clear Spring for 1A state boys’ basketball final bid; Fairmont Heights ends Patterson Mill’s run (VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS/PRESS CONFERENCE HERE!)

Dunbar’s Dashawn Phillip (5) and Jamal West (15) battles Clear Spring’s Taivon Davis for a rebound during Friday’s Class 1A boys’ basketball state semifinal at the University of Maryland. The No. 6 Poets advanced to their first final since 2013 with a 69-43 decision over Clear Spring.

by Tom Hayden

Special to VSN

Considering it’s been several seasons since Dunbar High boys’ basketball team played at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center, the Poets would need time Friday to adjust to the big court.

It didn’t take long. No. 6 Dunbar looked more than comfortable on Gary Williams Court, handing Clear Spring, 69-43, in a Class 1A state semifinal.

Senior wing Dashawn Phillip scored 19 points for Dunbar (25-3), and Malik McCormick added 18. Taivon Davis finished with 18 for Clear Spring.

The east Baltimore school pulled away from the western Maryland squad in the second half to earn its 19th state final. The Poets will take on defending state champ Fairmont Heights from Prince George’s County for the title, Saturday at 1 p.m. in College Park.

Dunbar, which last played in the state final four in 2013 (won 1A title), connected on seven 3-pointers while Clear Spring finished 0-for-13. The Blazers hit only 17-of-61 shots.

“I think our defense did a great job getting their shooters off the spot,” said Dunbar coach Diego Jones. “When I look at the stat sheet and see they went 0-13 from the three-point line, my first thought is that had a lot to do with our quickness on defense. Davonte Ayers did a great job defending [Jaret Lazich]. I think he usually hits three or four a game and he didn’t hit any tonight.”

The Poets were able to get ample production from the perimeter in the first half as McCormick and senior guard Zephaniah Esguerra each connected on a pair of three-point field goals and Philip added another as Dunbar forged a 34-22 halftime advantage.

Clear Spring started the second half well as Davis completed a conventional three-point play to get the Blazers within 36-29 with 5:31 remaining in the third. Poets countered with a 10-2 run as McCormick had a three-point play of his own and Dunbar also got a three-point field goal from Damon Miller and buckets inside from Miller and Jamal West to forge a comfortable 46-31 lead with just over one minute left in the third period.

The Blazers crept to within 46-36, but the Poets emphatically countered. Phillip scored three buckets and McCormick’s 3-point play helped extend the Orleans Street school’s lead to 54-38.

Jones credited Jamal West’s effort in the paint. The junior post had eight points and pulled down a game-best 19 rebounds.

“He kept them from getting a lot of second chance buckets,” said Jones.

The Poets reached the state final four in 19 of their first 21 seasons in the public tournament. Dunbar will try to win its record 16th title Saturday.

“I’ve been here four years and never made it to [Xfinity Center], so I’m going to take some time, get my teammates together and go out and win a state championship,” Phillip said. “We want to control what we can control and just focus on winning a state championship — one game, one possession at a time.”

After a promising start, things fell apart for Patterson Mill against reigning champ Fairmont Heights. Trailing just 13-10 after opening quarter, the Huskies fell into an insurmountable 38-19 halftime hole.

“Once they got on a roll, it was really tough to stop them,” said Patterson Mill 11th-year coach Jeroud Clark, who guided the Huskies to their second state final four. “I would have liked a few more calls in the first half, but every coach would and it really didn’t come down to that. We needed to do a better job getting back on defense and taking away their penetration. I thought our guys fought hard the whole game.”

Fairmont Heights (20-8) was able to get ample production inside from starters Kimani Benjamin (17 points), Darren Lucas-White (14 points) and Mandell Quigley (11 points) and reserve Daron Eccles added 10 points off the bench. Rashawd Clowney led Patterson Mill (19-8) with 13 points, and Max Elliott added 12.

The Hornets took a 57-35 lead into the fourth quarter and opened the final frame with an extended 10-4 run to forge its biggest lead of the night at 67-39 with just under three minutes remaining in the contest. Not long after, both coaches went to their reserves.

“Our guys went out there and gave it 100 percent,” said Rashawd Downey. “The fouls hurt us and so did the turnovers. We had to do a better job getting back on defense.”

Patterson Mill’s coaches and players ponder during the final minutes of Friday’s Class 1A state semifinal. The Huskies’ season ended with a 72-49 loss to Prince George’s County’s Fairmont Heights.

“I don’t think it came down to effort,” Elliott said. “We hustled on both ends of the floor. We just had to avoid making so many turnovers. They did a good job pressuring us and we just didn’t respond to the pressure.”

Class 1A state boys’ basketball semifinals

at University of Maryland

No. 6 Dunbar 69, Clear Spring 43

Clear Spring – Davis 18, Myers 11, Michael 9, Lazich 3, Faith 1, Yeakle 1. Totals 17 9-15 43.

Dunbar – Philip 19, McCormick 18, West 8, Miller 7, Esquerra 6, Tolbert 4, Davis 3, Cannady 2, Scott 2. Totals 27 8-10 69.

Clear Spring 12 10 11 10 – 43
Dunbar 16 18 12 23 – 69

Fairmont Heights 72, Patterson Mill 49

Patterson Mill – Rashawn. Clowney 13, Elliott 12, Felder 6, Rashawd Clowney 6, D. Harris 5, Roussey 5, L. Harris 2. Totals 20 7-12 49.

Fairmont Heights – Benjamin 17, Lucas-White 14, Quigley 11, Eccles 10, Reed 5, Montgomery 4, Holmes 3, Miles 3, Early 2, Anderson 1, Norman 1, Reynolds 1. Totals 21 15-25 72.

Patterson Mill 10 9 16 14 – 49

Fairmont Heights 13 25 19 15 – 72