At Tuesday’s state Final Four luncheon, Owings Mills High boys’ basketball coach Richard Epps talked about having time to prepare Friday’s state Class 1A semifinal match against Dunbar after, for different reasons, having less than a day to prepare for the Poets in two prior meetings.

Time may heal wounds, but as far as Dunbar v. Owings Mills is concerned, the gap between the programs remained as huge as the Comcast Center floor. The No. 7 Poets handled the 14th ranked Eagles, 76-50.

Senior swingman Devante Wallace led all scorers with 22 points and 10 rebounds for Dunbar (23-3 overall), and Aaron Parham contributed 16. Sophomore guard Ahmaad Wilson had 15 points for Owings Mills (23-4), and Tyson Smith finished with 10 points and six rebounds.

For the 16th time in 18 seasons, Dunbar will play for a state championship. The Poets will play Williamsport or Pocomoke in the first game of Championship Saturday at the University of Maryland.

The east Baltimore power led by as many as 27 points to move into position for its 13th state crown. Dunbar collected No. 12 a year ago at Owings Mills’ expense.

In January at the Basketball Academy at Coppin State University, the Poets overwhelmed the Baltimore County squad, 73-50. Dunbar was determined from the opening tip Friday not let Owings Mills even consider an upset.

“We knew exactly what their personnel were capable of doing. Coach Rick [Epps] knows my style and I know his style,” said Dunbar coach Diego Jones. “It basically came down to the players, who were going to go out there and play the best, and I think our guys were the ones who did that.”

“We wanted to take their hearts from the jump,” said Parham. “We beat them in the regular season and they wanted payback.”

Using an active 2-3 and 3-2 zone with some halfcourt pressure, Dunbar held Owings Mills to just 34-percent shooting including 6-of-22 from the behind the arch. The Poets shot 60-percent (29-of-48), 17-of-24 in the second half.

Wallace, who went for 30 points in the South Region title win over Surrattsville last weekend, helped provide more than enough distance for the Poets Friday. He scored six straight for his team in the second quarter as the Poets led 32-17 at halftime.

The 6-foot-5 North Carolina transplant scored nine of Dunbar’s first 10 points in the second half. His only error was missing on a dunk, but a trailing Parham was there for the follow, and a 50-27 advantage.

“In the first half my jumper was falling, but my teammates kept telling me to keep shooting,” said Wallace. “In the second half, it showed and Donte kept getting me the ball.”

While Wallace found his rhythm, Owings Mills never really had it, losing for the fourth time over the last three seasons to Dunbar. The latest setback was pretty simple to diagnose for Epps.

donte pretlow, aaron parham, devante wallace“We just couldn’t hit any shots,” said Epps. “When you’re a team that used to scoring at will and start missing shots, you start second guessing yourself.

At Coppin, it was total inexperience, jitters and not being prepared. Tonight they were a little more prepared, but we just didn’t make the shots.”

With three combined losses to defending state champions Dunbar and Milford Mill, Epps was pleased with reaching the state Final Four for the second straight season. Dunbar has only missed the state semifinals twice in the 18 seasons Baltimore City schools have been a member of the state athletic association.

“We lost to a quality program. The young guys don’t understand the history of Dunbar,” said Epps, whose moves up to 2A next season. “Everybody has had their runs, but if you go into Dunbar’s gym, it’s been consistent for decades and decades.”

The Poets are on the verge of adding another banner in the Orleans Street gymnasium, known as “Eastside Gardens.” They won’t lack for motivation Saturday.

“A lot of things are always said about Dunbar High School,” said Jones. “Whether we win or lose; how much we win by or how much we lost by; there’s certain expectations.”