When Dunbar's Chuckie Jackson comes strolling off the bench, most folks know it's for one purpose only --to shoot. the 6-foot-4 junior did just that in the nick of time yesterday, hitting two clutch jumpers from the top of the key in the last minute of play to spark lethargic Dunbar to a 50-44 victory over Spingarn in the Interhigh League Tournament championship game before more than 3,000 at McDonough Gymnasium.
The second-ranked Crimson Tide (25-1) almost were caught with their hands in their pocket and their heads looking ahead to their city title clash against top-ranked De Matha Sunday at Cole Field House. They turned in one of their worst performances this season -- 40 percent shooting (22 of 54) and 18 turnovers -- and were almost counted out after a Bryant Johnson basket lifted the Green Wave to a 44-41 lead with 1:42 left.
"We just needed to play better defense but we never felt we could lose," said Dunbar's Tony Gomillion.
Dunbar's chances looked even bleaker when Spingarn's Diego Mccoy went to the foul line in a one-and-one situation 20 seconds after Johnson's bucket. But the Green Wave's leading scorer missed the freebie and Dunbar's Raymond Wright hit from the corner to pull the Crimson Tide to within one point, 44-43, with 1:08 left.
Spingarn's Larry Geddie was called for traveling and Dunbar Coach Joe Dean Davidson then inserted the streak-shooting Jackson. The muscular forward wasted little time getting warmed up, taking a pass from Joe Holston and drilling home the goahead basket with 56 seconds to play.
The Dunbar press unnerved the suddenly panic-stricken Green Wave and Jackson intercepted a lob pass near the top of the circle. Needing no urging from the aroused Dunbar bench and fans, Jackson took one dribble and hit the bottom of the net and Dunbar was ahead 47-44, with 40 seconds to play.
"Those two plays hurt," admitted Spingarn Coach John Wood."Diego missed that free throw and that might have done it." Wood still has unfond memories of a 40-foot miracle shot by Dunbar's Terry Tibbs at the buzzer and the Tide's consequent 39-35 victory during the teams' regular-season meeting.
"Then we got that traveling call. . . we just couldn't get untracked," Wood added. "Our inside game just didn't click like it should."
Just to make certain Spingarn was dead, the Crimson Tide added a free throw by Holston and a basket by Kenny Haynes in the final 20 seconds.
Spingarn missed on its next journey down court and Jackson, perhaps looking for another jumper, pulled down one of the rebounds.
"I came in looking for my shot," he admitted. "I'm usually offensively minded when I come in." Jackson finished with six points.
Davidson said he put Jackson back into the game at that point because "he can shoot."
"We have confidence in Chuckie. He's a great shooter and has played well coming off the bench all season."
Neither team showed much enthusiasm in the first three quarters. Both teams committed enough turnovers and missed enough shots to warrant extra practices for their "Big Day" Sunday against the Metro Conference representatives. Spingarn 722-4) will play the Catholic league runner-up in the preliminary to the Dunbar-De Matha clash.
Holston's only two field goals and a Gomillion bank shot sent Dunbar out to its biggest advantage, 34-24, with 3:30 left in the third period. ball and Spingarn, with two baskets from McCoy, closed to 34-31 going into the final eight minutes.
Johnson, who finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, dropped in a three-point play with 5:01 to play to put Spingarn ahead, 38-36, for the first time since early in the first quarter.
At that point it appeared the Crimson Tide's 18-game winning streak was in danger.
"We were flat," admitted Davidson. "Actually, I thought both teams were a bit tired. We both played three games in three days and it takes a lot out of you.
"But I guess pride and tradition came out near the end. Bo (Holston) told the guys the game was a 'long way from being over and let's play.'"
If Davidson was hiding something from the De Matha scouting team, sitting in the stands, he did a good job of it.
"It's too late in the season to make many adjustments now; I wasn't trying to hide anything," said Davidson. "Hey, does De Matha play anymore? I've only seen them play one half this year."
One pleasant surprise for Davidson was the sparkling play of forward Lawrence Blackledge, who usually plays in the shadow of Holston, Tibbs and Wright. Blackledge led his team with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Jarvis Smith scored 20 points, four of them coming in the final minutes, to help McKinley hold off Eastern, 74-70, in the consolation game.