No. 6 Poets wear down Fairmont Heights for first state championship since 2013; Phillip posts double-double (VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS/PRESS CONFERENCES HERE!)

by AJ Mason

Special to VSN

The drought is over for Dunbar High boys’ basketball. The sixth-ranked Poets are state champions again after a 59-48 victory over Prince George’s County’s Fairmont Heights in the Class 1A title match at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center.

Senior wing Da’Shawn Phillip finished with a game-high 27 points and pulled down 13 rebounds for Dunbar (26-3), while junior post Jamal West added a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds. Darren Lucas-White finished with a team-high 19 points and Yearlarndo Reed II scored 11 for Fairmont Heights (20-9).

Behind a relentless ball-hawking defensive effort, Dunbar methodically controlled the final three quarters to deny Fairmont Heights a second straight title.

The Poets, who last won the state title in 2013, captured their record 16th state championship trophy.

“I’m just proud of my guys, mainly my seniors and ending their careers with a state championship,” said Dunbar coach Cyrus Jones, a starter on the Poets’ 1991-1992 mythical national championship squad. “I’m just honored.”

The Poets trailed 15-10 after the first quarter, but turned up the defensive pressure, taking a 24-20 halftime lead and stretched the margin to 36-26 after three quarters. The Poets went up by as many as 15 points in the fourth.

The Poets allowed just five points in the second quarter and six in the third to help shut down the Hornets fast-paced offense attack. The 49 points Saturday were a season-low for Fairmont Heights.

“We always try to play multiple defenses and we knew Fairmont liked to attack the basket,” said Jones. “So we wanted to limit their drive to the basket.”

“I felt like we got the shots that we wanted, we were a little rushed and not as poised as we generally are. A lot of that is an attribute to what Dunbar did and they control the boards,” said Fairmont Heights coach Chuck Henry, whose team defeated Edmondson last year to capture its first state title since 1991. “We couldn’t get any offensive rebounds and they made us take some tough shots in the lane.”

A big reason was West, who pulled down seven boards on each side of the paint.

“Whenever the ball goes up on both ends I just go for the rebound no matter what,” said West, a 6-foot-5 sophomore. “We take a lot of pride in our defense.”

Phillip put Dunbar’s offense on his back. The wiry 6-foot-5 senior shot 11 of 13 from the field, scoring 14 points in the second half.

“My teammates put me in position to score and I just picked my spots and shot the ball in rhythm,” said Philip, who totaled 46 points in two games on Gary Williams Court, shooting 19-for-25 from the field.

A four-year starter being pursued by James Madison, Phillip endured two city final losses and saw the Poets fall short in the region playoffs the previous three seasons.

“It feels good to win a state championship, I’ve never had this feeling,” said Phillip.

Class 1A state boys’ basketball championship

at University of Maryland

No. 6 Dunbar 59, Fairmont Heights 48

Fairmont Heights – Lucas-White 19, Quigley 5, Craven 2, Benjamin 4, Reed 11, Norman 2, Montgomery 4. Totals 20 5-9 48.

Dunbar – Phillip 27, McCormick 10, West 15, Tolbert 2, Miller 1, Ayers 1, Esguerra 3. Totals 22 13-23 59.

Fairmont Heights 15 5 6 22 – 48

Dunbar 10 14 12 23  59