By John Cummings, Contributing Writer, Dayton Daily News
DAYTON — In a battle of high school heavyweights Sunday night at UD Arena, the champs showed why they still wear the belt.
Dunbar, the defending state champions, overcame a 10-point deficit to hand Thurgood Marshall a 57-54 defeat in front of a boisterous crowd.
“We knew they would give us their best shot,” Dunbar senior Roger Williamson said after scoring 10 points and recording a game-ending steal. “But, they hadn’t seen our best shot.
“I know I’m not going to give them 20 points … I know my role. My role is to play defense and do the little things to help us win. If we get the win, I don’t have to score 20 all season.”
Marshall (0-1) opened the game hot, running off the first 10 points of the night to build a lead the Cougars would carry throughout most of the game. Dunbar trimmed the lead to 15-10 after the first quarter, but the Cougars took a 34-24 lead at the break and led 43-36 heading into the final eight minutes.
“When I was told Dunbar would be our first game, I couldn’t think of a better way to open the season,” Marshall first-year coach Darnell Hoskins said. “To be the best, you have to beat the best. They showed why they are the best. They are tougher, they are resilient … they are everything they were built up to be.”
A 3-pointer by Edmund Early gave the Cougars a 46-36 lead with 6:53 left in the game, but the Wolverines pecked away at the lead, taking the lead for the first time on the night when Deonte Hawkins drained a 3-pointer from the right corner for a 51-50 edge with 2:17 left in the game.
Williamson pushed the lead to three with a reverse layup with 1:24 left, but the Cougars answered with a pair of free throws by Sam Sanders to trim the lead to one. The Wolverines missed a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left, but Williamson recorded a steal with 14 seconds left on the clock and fed Keontae Brown, who finished off a game-high 16 points with a two-handed dunk with 5 seconds left.
“We know our weaknesses,” Dunbar coach Pete Pullen said of his 1-0 Wolverines.
“Our kids believe they are going to win. They know they have been down 10 before, and they understand they have to play smart.
“This is a whole different team (from the one which won state last year), but they still have that character. I told them, I know you got the heart, but we need a better mental game to go with it.”
Dunbar plays #5 Nationally Ranked Simeon (IL) and Thurgood Marshall will be taking on #4 Nationally Ranked Miller Grove (GA) on Sunday and Monday at Flyin’ to the Hoop in January. Sounds like they are both up to the test…..