Storied programs Dunbar, Fairmont Heights set for 1A title showdown

The hoops rivalry between Baltimore and Prince George’s County runs deep, not out of hatred, but for bragging rights in the unending debate of Maryland’s superior basketball hotbed. Between the two areas, they’ve combined for over 50 state titles and many NBA perennials, such as Carmelo Anthony (Baltimore) and Kevin Durant (PG County).

That rich rivalry will be on display once again Saturday at 1 p.m. at University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center with Baltimore’s Dunbar (15-time state champs) and PG County’s Fairmont Heights (eight-time state champs) colliding for the Class 1A title.

Dunbar has the most state titles in Maryland history, while Fairmont Heights is tied for fifth, but second in its county to Gwynn Park (10 state titles). 

The Hornets won it all last year and have their top three contributors back with the shot to complete the program’s first repeat since 1970-71: Darren Lucas-White (18 points, eight rebounds, seven assists), Kimani Benjamin (18 points, 13 rebounds) and Yearlando Reed II (14 points, seven rebounds).

The Poets, meanwhile, are back in the title game for the 19th time in 26 years. They’re led by Da’Shawn Phillip, a 6-foot-4 senior guard averaging 18 points and eight rebounds a game this year. Sophomore 6-5 forward Jamal West is averaging a double-double at 15 points and 11 rebounds per contest.

Dunbar 69, Clear Spring 43

After a sluggish start, trailing by four toward the end of the first quarter, Dunbar eventually cranked up the pace to run away from Clark Spring, 69-43.

The Poets shot 48.2 percent from the floor (27-for-56), but held Clear Spring to just 27.9 percent overall (17-for-61) and 0-for-13 from deep.

“Our defense once again was the difference in the game,” Dunbar coach Cyrus Jones said. “Looking at this 3-point stat from Clear Spring, 0-for-13. I think that says a lot about how hard these guys work, to run them off the 3-point-line. Three-pointers beat 2-point shots all day. Once we control the line and not allow them to shoot 3-pointers, and once we played defense solid, we was able to run away.”

Da’Shawn Phillip led the charge for Dunbar with 19 points and nine rebounds. Malik McCormick tallied 18 points for the Poets, hoping to bring a 33rd state title back to Baltimore City.

“It’s surreal,” DaShawn Phillip said. “It’s been four years, so I’m going to take my time getting my teammates together.”

Fairmont Heights 72, Patterson Mill 49

With stingy man-to-man defense, Fairmont Heights cashed in 35 points off 25 Patterson Mill turnovers to surge into its second straight 1A final, 72-49. 

The Hornets shot 41.3 percent from the floor (26-for-63), while Patterson Mill converted 44.4 percent of its shots (20-for-45).

“I’m really proud of these guys,” Fairmont Heights coach Chuck Henry said. “To get here once, it takes a lot to go in your favor. To get here a second time, it takes an immeasurable amount of sacrifice and dedication from a group of teenage boys and a group of volunteer coaches to get to this point. … We talk about the legacy at Fairmont Heights. 1970-71 is the last time we’ve been in this position, this opportunity in front of us.”

Fairmont Heights put four in double figures: Kimani Benjamin (17 points), Darren Lucas-White (14 points), Mandell Quigley (11 points) and Daron Eccles (10 points). It also registered 11 players in the scoring department. A win Saturday will tie them with Blair for fourth most titles in MPSSAA history at nine.

“I think it’s interesting we’re in this position,” Henry said. “We’ve watched those guys throughout the course of the year … on film 20 times and twice in person. I thought they were a good team. … I’m really excited about playing this team.”