Faced with a 13-point deficit with 12 minutes left in Saturday’s 1A South Region girls’ basketball championship game, Dunbar High girls’ basketball coach Wardell Selby put the fate of his team’s season in the hands of his trusted inside duo of Michelle Wright and Oma-ah Tayong.

They responded and the Poets are headed back to UMBC.

Wright and Tayong combined for 41 points, 28 in the second half, pacing the Poets to a 60-52 comeback victory over Prince George’s County’s Surrattsville, 60-52, in east Baltimore. Dunbar will play defending state champ Joppatowne in a state semifinal Friday at 7 p.m. at UMBC’s Retriever Activities Center.

“Getting the ball into Michelle and Oma-ah has been our bread and butter all year,” said Selby. “They played very well the second half so we tried to work that inside game at our advantage.”

Wright had a game-high 22 points and Tayong added 19 for Dunbar (19-4 overall). Rashawnda Carter led Surrattsville (15-8) with 11 points in the losing effort.

“We just had to have confidence in our team and not give up,” said Wright. “I helped my team get the win the best I could.”

After falling behind 34-21 midway through the third quarter, the Poets rolled off an 8-0 run as they began to show signs of life. Behind a combined 19 points from Wright, Tayong, and Candace DeShields, Dunbar narrowed the margin to 42-38 entering the fourth quarter.

Wright’s put back lay-up off Tayong’s missed free throw with five minutes remaining seized the lead for the Poets, 45-44.  It would be an advantage Dunbar would not forfeit, as they outscored the Hornets, 15-8, down the stretch to seal its sixth state Final Four berth.

“At the half I just told them that rather than find ways to lose, let’s find a way to win,” said Selby, whose team won four straight crowns from 2000 to 2003. “They worked hard and made sacrifices as players for the better of the team.”

“This win proves that we are a good team and that a city school can beat any team,” added Tayong.

The Poets avenged a 58-45 loss to the Hornets at the Holly & Hoops Tournament during the Christmas holiday break. Surrattsville coach DeMario Newman said his team let a golden opportunity slipped away.

“Dunbar didn’t do anything special, and I think our girls played together; everybody was on the same page,” said Newman. “But we didn’t play as hard as we should have defensively in the second half. The candle just blew out today, that’s all.”

A year after losing to Smithsburg in the state semifinals, Dunbar will have a more daunting challenge with Joppatowne, which disposed of Harford Tech in the North finals Saturday afternoon. The Harford County powerhouse has won 42 of its last 43 decisions, dating back to last season.

“I think we are ready this year. I have a good feeling about this group,” said Selby.  “Since day one they’ve been looking to get back to UMBC, and not paying to get in either.”