Gonzaga 68, Dunbar 46
Gonzaga's basketball team and its coach, Dick Myers, entered George Washington University's Smith Center last night as perhaps the area's best program and coach never to have won a City Title.
It took them only a few minutes to lose that distinction.
Behind an MVP performance from senior point guard Lorenzo Miles and another standout game from Princeton-bound forward Luke Owings, the fifth-ranked Eagles ran up an early double-digit lead and cruised to a 68-46 victory over No. 7 Dunbar in front of a capacity crowd of 5,000.
"This is the perfect end to a perfect season for us," Gonzaga junior Antwan Harrison said. "We wanted to win this game so we could finally get the respect we feel we deserve. And to do it like this, it can't get much better."
For Gonzaga (27-5), the victory was a fitting end to a season that began with so much promise. The Eagles went 32-0 during summer league play, clinched the top seed in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament with a 13-3 record, and on Monday claimed the Northwest private school's first conference championship since 1999.
"We've finally won this game!" Owings said. "We got up big early and never let up. Even when some of us got in foul trouble, we kept our heads about us. We wanted to go out on top, and now we have."
Said Miles: "We did it, we made our statement. We finished tied for first place, won the league and now we've got a City Title."
Owings's scored eight of his team's first 12 points to help the Eagles race out to a big lead they would never relinquish. Dunbar, playing without starting point guard Earl Risby, got a game-high 20 points from senior All-Met guard Tre Kelley, but was unable to overcome its poor start.
"Two of the three City Titles we've lost were very close margins," said Myers, who is believed to be the area's active winningest coach with 670 victories. "We have been playing very well lately and the fact that we played five days after winning a championship instead of the normal two-week layoff really helped us a lot. We can thank the snow for that"
Four Eagles scored in double figures, led by Owings with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Miles had 10 points, 3 assists and 6 rebounds. Taurean Marshall and Stanley Hodge added 13 and 11 points, respectively.
"Luke has been our leader all season and he was again tonight," Harrison said. "But he took that leadership role to a new level in the playoffs. He means so much to this team."
Marshall and Miles were key to the Eagles keeping Kelley seven points below his season average. Gonzaga also held Dunbar to 30.6 percent shooting.
"We did a good job containing Kelley, and that was real important," Miles said, "because he can score a lot of points."
Dunbar (24-6) was attempting to claim its seventh City Title. The Crimson Tide's last championship came in 1999 courtesy of a 45-43 victory over the Eagles.
Dunbar's play clearly suffered without Risby, whose appeal of his one game suspension for last night's game was denied by the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association early yesterday. Risby, who averaged 10 points and eight assists, was ejected from Saturday's championship victory over Cardozo for tossing the ball at an official in the closing seconds. Under DCIAA rules, players who are ejected receive an automatic one-game suspension to be served in the team's next contest.
In the first half, Dunbar missed its first eight shots, and struggled to recover, despite the best effort of Kelley (12 first half points). Gonzaga's Marshall scored nine points in the second quarter to help the Eagles stretch their lead to 40-24 at halftime.
"I think they jumped out on us real quick," Dunbar Coach Lorenzo Roach said. "When a team like that gets a lead, they are going to run their system and do what they want. Once they got up on us, it was very difficult to come back. Not having Earl was big because he's the general of our ship."