Dunbar High School's basketball team lost the city championship game Sunday to nationally ranked De Matha of Hyattsville. But the next day, Joe (Bo) Holston, everybody's All-Metropolitan point guard, was working hard on his spanish, grinning ear-to-ear when his teacher complimented his lingual prowess. Starting guard Terry Tibbs and reserve forward-center Tony Gomillion were strolling through the halls during a period break, joking and laughing with their buddies, showing little emotion about the Crimson Tide's setback - their second in 27 outings this season.
"It's still just a game," said Tibbs, a 6-foot-2 senior guard who contributed 14 points per game to the team that is second-ranke in the Washington area. "All I think of it is it's a game we lost. Twenty-five (wins) and two (losses) is not bad, but I think we should have won it all."
"I'm proud of what we've done," said the 6-3 Holston, who led the Tide with an 18-points average and is a strong candidate to be name the area's player of the year. "De Matha's a great team. Maybe we didn't deserve to win. The way they played in the first half was unbelievable."
Dunbar's season was far from a total loss after taking the regular season and tournament titles in the highly competitive Interhigh League of D.C. public schools. And the Tide still has a chance at victory in the prestigious Knights of Columbus tournament which begins March 20 in Baltimore.
"Well, certainly losing to De Matha hasn't changed what we've accomplished on bit," said Dunbar coach Joe Dean Davidson, who has taught health and physical education in the D.C. public school system for a dozen years since graduation from South Carolina State College in 1964. "There's no question about it - our number one objective is to win the Interhigh League, really. We went undefeated (14-0 in regular season) and we didn't even win the league until the last game."
Davidson has done a remarkable job of turning the Dunbar program around. After inheriting a losing tradition and a dilapidated gym in 1973 at the old building at First and N streets NW, Davidson has compiled a five-year mark of 110-20, with a peak season of 1975-76 when the Tide won all 29 games, took the city crown with a 70-66 triumph over De Matha and was named the best team in the country by one poll. Dunbar also captured the Interhigh regular season championship in 1974-75.
The new Dunbar High School opened its doors at 1301 New Jersey Ave. NW last April.
Davidson has fed a host of players to top college programs. He proudly noted that while he ahas been at Dunbar each of his senior players has gone to college on scholarship. Dunbar's five starting seniors - 6-6 center Kenny Haynes, guards Holston and Tibbs, and Raymond Wright and Lawrence Blackledge, a pair of 6-4 forwards - have all been heavily recruited.
Kenny Matthews, a recent Dunbar graduate, put a strong freshman year at North Carolina State.
Sophomores John Duren, who recently received Associated Press All-American honorable mention, and Craig Shelton elected to stay home and have helped vault Georgetown into the national rankings. All three played in the 29-0 season of two years ago.
Louis Whiting, a little-used sub on that undefeated team, now plays for Youngstown State, while Greg Nance has been a solid player for West Virginia and Joe Thweat plays for St. Francis of Pennslyvania.
Additionally, Lonnie Perrin, star running back for the Denver Broncos of the National Football League, and Harry Nickens, a three-time Middle Eastern Athletic Conference All-Star from South Carolina State, played for Davidson during his five-year tenure as basketball coach at Roper Junior High School at 48th and Meade streets NE.
Most coaches stress teamwork, but Davidson thinks the key to team play runs deep.
"He believes we should love each other , care for each other, and we should play together," Holston said. "Most importantly, he knows basketball. That's what makes him a good coach."
"The thing that pleases me," Davidson said, "is I got a different reputation among the kids than being a basketball coach - as being a person who was interested in them and their development."
Though defeat has been rare during Davidson's stay at Dunbar, he said there are times when a team can profit from defeat.
"Our attitude about winning and losing is that we will give everything we have to try to win," he said. "As long as there's time on the clock and strength in their bodies, we give all we have toward winning. But once the game is ended and we don't win, we try to put that aside."
Davidson said this year's team had much ability, which he just had to mold into a winner.
"They had a lot of talent overall. I stressed the importance of them playing together, to blend that talent. I pointed out to them if you lose, some individuals might stand out. But if you win, the light shines on everybody."