Dunbar dazzles in shocking comeback; Wolverines oust Cleveland Benedictine
A year ago in a Division II state semifinal, Dayton City League member Thurgood Marshall shocked the Schottenstein Center by rallying from a 12-point fourth quarter deficit to beat Circleville Logan Elm. This year, a week after beating Marshall in the regional finals, Dayton Dunbar – another Dayton City school – one upped their rivals again.
COLUMBUS – A year ago in a Division II state semifinal, Dayton City League member Thurgood Marshall shocked the Schottenstein Center by rallying from a 12-point fourth quarter deficit to beat Circleville Logan Elm. This year, a week after beating Marshall in the regional finals, Dayton Dunbar – another Dayton City school – one upped their rivals again.
Rallying from an 18-point second quarter deficit, Dunbar advanced to its third D-II state championship in six years with an avalanche of a second half that covered, confused and coated Cleveland Benedictine 69-62 before a crowd of 9,946.
For Benedictine the loss was a cruel reversal of last week’s regional final in which the Bengals rallied from a 15-point halftime deficit themselves to oust defending D-II state champion Akron St. Vincent St. Mary.
“First half we did what we had to do…we handled their stuff,” Benedictine head coach Rob Stricula said. “Second half we bailed them out and stopped attacking. We told our guys at halftime to play to win and instead we came out and played not to lose.”
“I told my kids at halftime that we might have taken their best shot, now lets go give them ours,” Dunbar head coach Peter Pullen said. “With this young group of men we’ve always talked about not quitting and overcoming obstacles no matter what they might be. They did that tonight.”
In the first half, everything went Benedictine’s way.
The Bengals led 20-11 after the first quarter and 38-20 when Nick Harney scored his 17th point of the first half with 46 seconds to go. Dunbar trailed 38-23 at the break.
The Bengals fuel in the first half was a steady dose of Harney’s inside game and execution. Benedictine shot 16-of-27 from the field in the first two quarters, while Dunbar went 10-of-28.
The second half was completely different.
Dunbar opened the third quarter with a 12-0 run and thanks to made baskets was able to implement its press. Good night.
“We knew we had to score for our press to be effective,” Pullen said. “We knew they were going to have trouble handling the ball and we wanted to make this game ugly. We wanted to make them speed up and once we did that, that’s when they broke down.”
“We told the guys at half that they were going to pressure them and get all over them,” Stricula said. “We haven’t seen pressure like that all year. Teams see our backcourt and think twice before they put the heat on. Some teams that have been down against us haven’t had the athletes to pressure us, but this is one of the few teams that actually had the athletes to pressure our guards like that.”
Benedictine’s starting backcourt featured the top two scorers in school history in seniors Cameron Wright (Pitt recruit) and Derek Jackson (Central Michigan). Jackson scored 15 points, while Wright managed just three.
“I’m speechless,” Wright said. “The way they came out the second half we just didn’t have an answer for their press.”
Dunbar took its first lead, 43-42, with 4:18 to go in the third quarter on a 3-pointer from Derrick Benson. Benedictine battled back to lead 50-47 heading into the fourth, but the outcome was inevitable. The Wolverines took the lead for good on a lay up from Deontae Hawkins with 6:36 left. Twice Benedictine clawed back to within one, but Dunbar’s pressure eventually won out.
Ryan Bass led Dunbar with 16 points, including two pivotal 3s in the third quarter comeback, and Johnson added 14. Hawkins scored 13.
Harney led all scorers with a game-high 22 points and Desmond Ridenour added 16 for the Bengals.
Dunbar advances to play the winner of Port Clinton/Zanesville in the D-II state final at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Wolverines (24-3) are going for their fourth title overall.
Benedictine finishes 22-5.
“It burns,” Wright said. “All we can do is move on. I’m still thinking about the game and I know I didn’t play up to my potential. This one really hurts. To be up 18 and for them to comeback and take it from us like that is unbelievable.”
Said Pullen: “We’re right where we want to be.”