Scratching and clawing for every rebound and loose ball, third-ranked Dunbar overcame a height disadvantage, its own weak shooting and a 13-point deficit to spill No. 2 Harker Prep, 57-51, last night at Georgetown's McDonough Gymnasium.
Neither team would have won any field goal shooting or ballhandling awards but Dunbar (21-3) presented a textbook lesson on pressure defense.
Perhaps inspired by playing on the court where the Hoyas perfected the art of relentless defense, Dunbar totally unnerved the usually poised Colonels (17-2), forcing 27 turnovers. Six of those came during a key five-minute stretch of the final period when the Crimson Tide broke away from a 40-40 tie to its largest lead, 52-46.
"That is the most turnovers we've had this year, but Dunbar had a lot to do with that," said Harker Prep Coach Stu Vetter, who is trying to build a national power at the tiny school in Potomac much in the manner he did at Flint Hill in the '80s.
Many of the Colonels' mistakes resulted in easy Dunbar baskets. Romeo Roach (7 points, 5 assists, 4 steals), the 5-foot-4 leader of the two-time city champions, came up with a loose ball and found Johnny Rhodes open in the corner. The senior swingman, having a generally miserable night offensively yet totaling 18 points, sank a three-pointer to push the Crimson Tide advantage to 48-44 with three minutes to play.
While Harker Prep was missing free throws and miscuing yet again, Rhodes scored back-to-back layups and the Crimson Tide took control, 52-46, with 1:26 to play.
"We missed some shots," said Dunbar Coach Mike McLeese, whose team shot 35 percent from the floor. "Johnny missed some shots. I told him at halftime," after Rhodes went two for nine for five points, "not to worry about it. The key was he was doing other things -- rebounding, getting steals and playing good defense."
Rhodes scored 11 points in the last quarter. He said his team had a tough time adjusting to the taller Colonels, particularly 7-3 Serge Zwikker (9 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks).
"Coach told us to keep going at him and if he blocks it, he blocks it," Rhodes said. "The key was they couldn't handle our pressure and we were able to get some steals and easy baskets."
Despite its defense and surprising success on the offensive glass late in the game, Dunbar missed enough easy shots to keep the game interesting. Zwikker scored inside, Sam Short (21 points) made one of two foul shots and Harker was within 53-49 with 58 seconds to play.
Harker, which got 17 points from 6-7 Sidney Shelton, had two chances to get even closer but Short missed a three-pointer and Dunbar's James Marshall (11 points, 11 rebounds) blocked a shot that resulted in a fast-break layup by Nathan Langley.