Dayton Dunbar pulls away from Port Clinton; Wolverines win fourth title


Dunbar’s Geron Johnson scored a game-high 24 points in the D-II final. (Photo by Nick Falzerano)

Port Clinton may have won a moral victory Saturday, but Dayton Dunbar
got the victory the Redskins really wanted – and the state championship
trophy that went with it.

COLUMBUS – Port Clinton may have won a moral victory Saturday, but Dayton Dunbar got the victory the Redskins really wanted – and the state championship trophy that went with it.

Believed by many to be a huge underdog despite its undefeated record, PC led explosive Dayton Dunbar in the third quarter before finally succumbing down the stretch and falling 64-50 in the Division II state championship game at OSU’s Schottenstein Center.

A crowd of 13,658 watched in astonishment as the Redskins (26-1) hung with the Wolverines for 28 minutes. In the end, though, it’s Dunbar (25-3) that gets to hang another state championship banner in its gym. It’s the fourth overall for the Wolverines and their third in the last six years. Only Middletown, Columbus East and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary have more state basketball titles than the Wolverines.

“Our opponent came out and played well,” Dunbar coach Peter Pullen said. “We knew we were going to have to make adjustments at halftime, but we also knew our pressure was going to get to them – eventually. We just had to keep it on.”

“Our kids are competitors,” Port Clinton head coach Troy Diels said. “I don’t care who we would have played here, these guys were going to bring it and be ready. We believed we could beat them.”

Dunbar had to earn this win.

Playing inspired from the tip, Port Clinton trailed just 14-12 after the first quarter and thanks to a last second and deep 3 at the buzzer by Derek Colston took a 27-26 lead into halftime.

In the third quarter, the Redskins held a 29-26 advantage with 7:02 left to play.

Then the Wolverines started applying their will and fresh legs. Consistently hounding PC with full court pressure and a rotation of 10, Dunbar wore down the Redskins who relied heavily on their starting five. Four PC players played 30-plus minutes, while another logged 27. Only six Redskins played over a minute.

Dunbar is used to opponents wilting – just not this late into the game.

The Wolverines outscored the Redskins 22-13 in the fourth quarter and 38-23 in the second half.

“We thought we’d eventually wear them down and part of my halftime speech was actually to keep attacking them,” Pullen said. “In the fourth quarter they finally started to slow down. They were turning the ball over in one-on-one situations and that was a sign of fatigue. This group wanted it and they got after them.”

Said Diels: “I thought we were in a good position going into the fourth. I felt good about where we were at, but I think we just wore down at the end and made some mistakes we typically don’t make.”

In the fourth quarter, Dunbar was also fueled by the play of standout senior Geron Johnson, who scored 10 of his game-high 24 points in the final eight minutes. Johnson also finished with seven assists, four rebounds and four steals.

Ryan Bass added 13 points for Dunbar, while Deon Stewart had 10.

The loss was Port Clinton’s first and concluded a remarkable run by the Redskins. Last year PC lost in the D-III sectional tournament and this year, after bumping up to D-II, made its surprising run to the championship. Prior to this year, the Redskins hadn’t won a district title since 1943.

PC was led by Colston and Ryan Hicks who each had 15 points. Josh Francis added 12.

“We didn’t come here to lose and we didn’t think we were going to,” Hicks said. “It sucks.”

Said Francis: “It hurts. You want to finish off a perfect season and we didn’t.”

Dunbar, which improved to 4-2 in state championship games, captured the City of Dayton’s 17th state title and moved into a first place tie with Stivers for total overall championships by a Dayton City League school. The title was the 23rd won by a school from Montgomery County.

“We said before the game that we had to step up because we had one chance,” Johnson said. “There’s no state championship tomorrow – we’re either here to win it or go home.

“My team came to bat.”

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