Dunbar handles No. 9 Lake Clifton, clinches Baltimore City boys’ hoops final berth; Phillip scores 23 (VIDEO HERE!!)


Dunbar’s Malik McCormick heads to the basket while Lake Clifton’s Michael Gray defends during Tuesday’s Baltimore City Division I boys’ basketball match. McCormick and the third-ranked Poets jumped out to a 24-point first half advantage en route to a 69-55 victory over the ninth-ranked Lakers on Bob Wade Court to clinch a spot in next weekend’s city title game. (photo – Jimmy Fields Sr.)

by Derek Toney

Dunbar High couldn’t have scripted a better start for its boys’ basketball match with Lake Clifton Tuesday.

The Poets made their first five 3-pointers and established a 11-point lead. They dominated on the offensive and defensive boards. When the early momentum faded, Dunbar was able to make a play to keep Lakers at bay.

It was a one-sided affair in the latest chapter of Baltimore City hoops’ most storied rivalry as the No. 3 Poets posted a 69-54 victory over ninth-ranked Lake Clifton on Bob Wade Court in east Baltimore. Senior wing Da’Shawn Phillip poured in a game-high 23 points for Dunbar, and Jamal West added 19.

With city hoop legends Wade and former Calvert Hall College and University of Maryland standout and current Coppin State University men’s coach Juan Dixon in attendance, the Poets led by as many as 24 points to improve to 18-0 overall and 6-0 in the city league’s Division I.

“We just came out with a lot of intensity on defense and fed off it and there was nothing they could do with us,” said Phillip.

The performance clinched a spot in the city title game for Dunbar, which hosts second-place Poly (6-1 Division I) Friday. The Engineers defeated last year’s city champs Patterson Tuesday.

After clawing past Patterson Friday, the Poets were engaged from the opening tip, constructing a 39-15 first half advantage. Junior guard Malik McCormick finished with 11 points.

“We’ve been working hard in practice, getting a lot of shots up after the off-night at Patterson,” said McCormick. “Coach [Jones] decided for us to get a lot of shots and it carried over to the game.”

McCormick, who didn’t play Friday because of mouth surgery, dropped the Poets’ fifth straight dagger for a 19-8 advantage. Phillip missed a 3-pointer from the corner, but was fouled and converted three free throws, presenting Dunbar with a 22-11 lead after one.

The near flawless play continued as West opened the second with a jumper. West found a cutting Phillip on the inbounds for an easy layup.

Phillip completed a 14-0 run with another 3-pointer, putting the Poets in cruise control at 33-11. It was 39-15 after a West follow-up.

“We knew they were going to be a tough team to beat, challenge us physically, so we wanted to make sure we got involved for 32 minutes,” said Dunbar coach Diego Jones. “We did it for the most part. We had some lapses where the game sort of got out of control, but our guys were able to hand in there and make basketball plays when we needed to.”

Lake Clifton (14-4, 5-2 Division I) mounted a rally, going on a 9-0 run to close to 49-38 early in the fourth. The Lakers had a chance to draw closer, but Poets reserve Jared Lewis swiped away Armon Harried’s shot and started a break, ending with West converting an off-balance layup for a 3-point play.

“Defense made our offense,” said Phillip.

Michael Gray led Lake Clifton with 19 points and Armon Harried added 12. The Lakers only led after the game’s opening basket.

“We got in a hole early, but they fought back,” said Lake Clifton coach Herman Harried, who was ejected late in regulation after picking up two technical fouls. “We had some tough breaks.”

Despite the loss, Lake Clifton is alive for the other city final spot. The Lakers will need to defeat City College Friday and Poly lose to Dunbar.

The city final is set for Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. at Morgan State University’s Hill Field House.

Dunbar, the lone undefeated squad in the Baltimore area, last won the city title in 2013.

“We’re not only teammates on the court, but brothers off it,” said McCormick.

No. 3 Dunbar 69, No. 9 Lake Clifton 55

Lake Clifton – Gray 19, Harried 12, Barney 10, Smith 6, Carter 4, Lucas 4. Totals 18 16-23 55.

Dunbar – Phillip 23, West 19, McCormick 11, Esguerra 8, Giles 3, Ayers 2, Tolbert 1. Totals 20 22-29 69.

Lake Clifton 11 10 15 19 – 55

Dunbar 22 17 10 20 – 69