McKinley ran off an 8-0 spurt in the final minutes of the third quarter and went on to defeat fifth-ranked Theodore Roosevelt, 66-58, in an Interhigh League game yesterday at Roosevelt.
The victory moved the Trainers into a four-way tie for third place with Eastern, Ballou and Roosevelt, all with 9-3 records. Dunbar leads with 10-2, followed by Coolidge at 10-3. The top eight teams advance to the Interhigh playoffs.
McKinley (13-7), getting excellent play from rebounder Juan Jones (15), scorer Jan Pannell (23) and its bench, whipped Roosevelt soundly in every phase of the game. The Trainers were on the verge of turning the game into a rout after a Mark Whitlock layup increased their lead to 57-43 with four minutes left.
Carl Polk injected life into the stagnant Rough Rider offense and nearly single-handedly brought his team back. The forward accounted for Roosevelt's final 13 points, including a three-point play that cut the deficit to 61-54 with 57 seconds to go.
But in between Polk jumpers and fast-break layups, substitute guard Gene Smith converted six free throws to keep McKinley ahead.
"We've been getting good play from our reserves lately," said Pannell, who also had three assists and three steals to go with his game-high 23 points. "The coach (Walter Kennedy) is using more men and the starters got a lot more rest. That is one reason we are playing better now."
Polk's 22-footer pulled Roosevelt within 63-58 with 30 seconds left. But Pannell secured McKinley's third-straight league victory with three free throws in the final seconds.
McKinley reserves Whitlock. Smith, Robert Bowman and Marcus Thompson accounted for 32 points. Roosevelt Coach Arthur Linder could muster only six from his bench.
"Not one of our better days," said Linder. "We really needed this one to have a solid chance at winning the championship. It's hard sitting back hoping someone loses."
Roosevelt started on the right track, grabbing a 16-9 lead after the first period.
McKinley began to settle and Pannell, with 12 points, and Thompson, with six, shot the Trainers into a 33-30 advantage at the half.
"This is the best game I've had this year," said Thompson, who also had seven rebounds. He combined with Jones to help McKinley control the boards, 32-21. "The shots just came to me."
Jones and Thompson swept the boards in the third quarter. Thompson scored half of his 16 points during the quarter to give McKinley a comfortable 47-36 lead going into the final eight minutes.
In other Interhigh action, Ballou Coach Herman Daves inserted a new unit after falling behind at the end of the first quarter, 19-13, and the Knights rallied to turn back Phelps, 81-57, at Ballou. Michael Smith led Ballou with 11 points. Twelve Knights shared in the scoring.
At Bell, David Bonner's 38 points led Dunbar past Bell, 120-78. William Taswell scored 20 points and Michael Wright 18 as visiting Cardozo dumped Anacostia, 71-59. Wilson scored a school record 104 points while limiting Chamberlain to 92 at Wilson. Clifton Cottom scored 16 points and hauled down 12 rebounds as host Spingarn beat Eastern, 72-57. H.D. Woodson thwarted visiting Coolidge, 67-54, behind Charles Thornton's 20 points.