Tripleheader. Nutter Center. Comfortable seats. Expensive eats (popcorn
and coke $7.00). “Blind Submission”. On a mission. Four college D-I
recruits. Several prime-time players. One diaper dandy. Dayton City
League basketball rocks. MVPhd nevermore. It’s JJHD evermore…
Video By Alex Sator
By Tim Langevin
The Dayton Dunbar-Thurgood Marshall high-stakes showdown lived up to its billing for 18 minutes. But then a 47-16 rampage by the top-ranked D-II team in the state, left the fans wishing, “refund”.
Dunbar is on a mission.
After last season’s stunning tournament loss to rival Thurgood Marshall 54-48, the Wolverines weren’t about to let the Cougars burn down this mission. Deonte Hawkins and Andre Yates combined for 43 points and Dunbar cake-walked to a 79-53 victory late Friday night.
Dunbar coach Pete Pullen talked about that bitter loss, “We knew we’d meet Turgood Marshall a third time. It’s tough playing a team you’ve played six times the past two years…It did leave a bitter taste. Glad they made it to the finals, but we felt that if it was us, we’d won it. That’s what we feel about the situation. Hopefully, we get there again. One game at a time. It definitely was a humbling experience.”
Talk about impressive coaching resume, Pullen has won three state titles and has compiled a 155-24 record, along the way. But did you know he coached girls basketball for six seasons and won 111 games?
Pullen said, “Success is success. I’ve been fortunate to have good players. Good players make good coaches. I enjoy coaching at any level.”
Both teams exploded out of the gate. Seconds after the opening tip, Yates bombed a trey deep in the corner. Game on.
Yates said, “Coming to Dunbar, there’s an attitude here. They have that swagger. Got to be at best.”
Joe Thomasson answered with a driving layup on a nifty back-door cut. Give Edmond Early the assist. Then Early drained a “anything you can do Yates, I can do better” three to tie the game at five a piece.
Then the 6-8 Hawkins took over, scoring six straight points with two explosive stickbacks and a 15-footer as Dunbar forged ahead 11-5.
Hawkins said, “We’re on a mission to win a state championship. Need to discipline ourselves to stay dedicated and focused.”
Thomasson responded from the outside, draining two long-range threes, and just like that, it was an 11-11 ballgame. Players started to get “chatty” and the refs issued double-technicals with 2:47 left in the opening stanza.
After a two-minute reprieve, Hawkins cashed in on a three-point-play and Yates capped a most entertaining first quarter with a double-clutch layup. Dunbar led 16-12.
Hawkins paved the way with nine points and Yates added five. Thomasson kept Marshall in it with eight points.
Hawkins stressed, “I feel so comfortable with these guys, especially the guards because I know they are going to get me the ball so I can score.”
The frenetic pace continued in the second quarter and Marshall started to show signs of wearing down. Hawkins continued his dominance by showing his versatility and Gary Akbar was a savage in the paint.
“We go hard in practice all week,” Hawkins said. “And it shows on the court. We have a lot of good players that can score and do a whole lot so everyone is competing for playing time.”
Yates expressed the same sentiment, “Practices are very competitive. Every day somebody is gonna come and look to take your spot. That’s what I like about the competition. Gotta keep that edge.”
Dunbar expanded the lead 32-20 with under a minute to play until half, but Rayshaun Martin nailed a 15-footer and Thomasson converted a steal into a layup to cut the margin 32-24 and stop the bleeding.
Sophomore guard William Green played valuable minutes with Yates in foul trouble and scored three points, all from the line. Tayvonne Hunt hopped off the bench to get his three points worth with a bomb from the corner.
Hats off to players like Geen, Hunt, and Chris McGuire. They could probably start for most teams in the Dayton area, but they’ve accepted their reserve roles and play intense defense.
“Our defense doesn’t get enough credit,” said Pullen. “All people talk about is our offense, but we only allow 48 points a game. Our kids work on defense hard in practice. They press. Our guard combinations ball-hawk the entire game. They wear you down and that’s what happened tonight.”
Dunbar averages 80.6 points per game and allows 48.8 points a game.
Thomasson showcased his skill-set with 12 points in the first half, slashing the lane and stepping outside to drain a couple of threes. The pressure was definitely on him to pick up the slack since starter Mark Alstork (17ppg) was serving a one-game suspension. That’s three or four games this season the two haven’t been on the same court together due to suspensions.
That explains Marshall’s 6-8 record. Not to mention two losses to national powers Findlay Prep and Grace Prep at the FTTH last month. Not to mention a rugger non-league schedule with a 75 percent winning record.
Bound and determined to keep Marshall in it, Thomasson scored on a floater down the lane to cut the lead 34-28 early in the third quarter, but Dunbar countered with a 7-0 run and the romp was on.
Yates tallied seven points, scoring from 16 feet, 22 feet, and a layup off a steal. Hawkins contributed four points, including a quarter-ending “Tomahawk” throw-down to build a 50-37 lead. AJ Harris added three points, including a coast-to-coast layup.
Speaking of Harris, this freshman “diaper dandy” can hang with the big boys. He scored nine points, including six in the fourth quarter. The little point guard slashed to the rack, handled the press, and found the open man.
His play drew praise from his mentor Andre Yates, “He plays with heart. You gotta love him. He gets down at times, but I keep him positive and focused during those stretches. It’s a learning process just like what I went through playing as a freshman at Trotwood.”
The fourth quarter was a foul shooting contest. The Wolverines made 11-of-14 and Marshall was 5-of-9. Dunbar converted 18-of-23 for the game (78%), a much higher percentage than their season average of 64 percent.
Captain and senior leader Yates added, “I am having fun. Not too uptight. Just playing basketball. I love being around the coaches and players. I’ve been here hanging out since fifth grade.”
Talk about a game with several “prime-time” players, Thomasson (Wright State) led the way for Marshall with 21 points. Hawkins (Wichita State) paved the way for Dunbar with a game high 22 points and Yates (Creighton) complemented with 21 points. Akbar (Cleveland State) tallied nine points, but was saddled with foul trouble most of the game.
Talk about bright futures, Hawkins and Yates are both headed for the Missouri Valley Conference. Instead of teammates, these two will square off twice a year in high-stakes conference battles. Presently, Creighton is in first place with an 11-1 record. Wichita State is second with a 10-2 mark. Coaches Greg McDermott (Creighton) and Gregg Marshall (Wichita St.) lucked out getting these two student-athletes.
Yates said, “When I visited Creighton, I felt something special. The players and coaches made me feel welcome. I told my parents that I wanted to get away. Nothing against UD or Wright St. or the other schools. I just felt comfortable with Creighton.”
Like Yates, Hawkins wanted to get away, “I thought Wichita St. was cool. I liked the coaches and they told me they needed me at the three position.”
The unofficial game stats show that Dunbar shot 28-of-55 (51%) from the field and forced 26 turnovers. Marshall made 16-of-48 (33%) from the floor and was outrebounded 28-23.
“It’s been a good season so far, but you can’t by-pass the teams in our region like C-J, Franklin, and Taft,” Pullen said. “That’s why during the summer we play Taft, Hiland (Berlin), and Northland. Get used to different styles of play because you never know who you will run into come tournament time.”
Stivers defeated Belmont 81-52 in the first game and Meadowdale (14-3, 7-1) beat Ponitz 65-54 in the second game. Golden Panther coach Shaun O’Connell was wearing his state championship ring. He was an assistant two years ago on Dunbar’s 2010 state title team.
The Wolverines remain on course with a 16-0 overall mark and 8-0 league record. Meadowdale trails Dunbar by one game in the City League standings. The two teams collide on Valentine’s Day for all the chocolates.
Pullen warned, “Meadowdale may be the sleeper of them all. We may not even win our league. They are playing with confidence and will be tough to beat.”
Who is Pullen kidding. His Wolverines won the first game 94-70. This game could be another “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”.