Adrian Dantley scored 27 points for the Chuck Taylor All-Stars, who defeated the Washington Bullets, 135-131, for their fourth straight Urban Coalition senior division championship before nearly 2,000 yesterday at Dunbar High School.
It was the first defeat in the summer league for the Bullets, who trailed by 15 points midway through the third period but rallied to tie, 112-112, on a dunk by Darren Daye with 8:03 remaining in the game. But the Bullets, a collection of draft picks and free agents, couldn't maintain their momentum and the All-Stars' experience began to make the difference.
"We just tried to push the ball upcourt to try and make something happen," said Bernard Perry, an eighth-round choice from Howard who scored 12 points and started the third-period rally. "We had it going for a while, but just made some crucial mistakes at the end."
One of the purposes of this league is to prepare young players for the professional ranks. Those lessons struck home with the authority of a sharp elbow as veteran NBA players like Dantley, Hollis Copeland of the New York Knicks, James Bailey of the Houston Rockets and Eddie Jordan of the Los Angeles Lakers took control in the last four minutes.
Ricky Moreland's layup with 4:02 left to play cut the Bullets' deficit to 123-121, but two straight layups by Copeland, the second a three-point play, increased the All-Stars' lead to seven points with 2:58 remaining.
A free throw and two long jump shots by Michael Britt, the Bullets' second-round selection from the University of the District of Columbia, made it 128-126, but a three-point play by Bailey and two free throws by Dantley sealed the outcome. The Bullets may have been their own worst enemy as they missed three straight foul shots in the final minute.
All-America center Earl Jones (25 points) from UDC fouled out with 19 seconds left in the third quarter, but the Bullets were unable to take advantage due to the loss of highly regarded Joe Kopicki (eight points), who twisted his left ankle in the second period and did not return to action. It was judged a minor sprain, but the Bullets did not want to risk further injury, according to General Manager Bob Ferry, who called the Bullets' Urban Coalition season a success despite the absence of top draft choice Jeff Malone of Mississippi State, who has not signed.
"We've seen these players improve tremendously since the beginning of the summer," said Ferry. "They know what it takes to play pro basketball now and they also know every drill we use and our basic offense. Coming into camp, they'll basically be ready to play with the veterans."
In the junior championship preliminary, Tyrone Jones scored 32 points and Daryl Prue added 20 more as Dunbar defeated the Northern Virginia All-Stars, 103-73.