Last season, Carver Vocational Tech defeated perennial Baltimore City blueblood Dunbar twice.
Tuesday, the Bears showed it wasn’t a fluke. Carver Vo-Tech eliminated the Poets from the Class 2A state playoffs with a 53-44 victory in the North Region 2 semifinals in West Baltimore.
Dorrian Sands scored 19 points for the Bears (18-4 overall), and Christian Hilton-Bey added 17 points, six rebounds and two blocked shotsSenior Tony Hart finished with a game-high 20 points for Dunbar (17-7).
Carver got defensive in the fourth quarter, punching its ticket to a second straight Region I final. The Bears will play at Overlea Thursday for a spot in Saturday’s 2A state quarterfinals.
“Our whole season has boiled down to defense…that’s what we rely on,” said Carver first-year coach Alvin Parker. “That’s (Dunbar) a good team and caught us earlier in the year. We knew it was going to be hard.”
Dunbar, which defeated the Bears, 45-41, during the regular season, trailed 34-19 in the third quarter Tuesday. The Poets stormed back to trail just 35-33 after Hart’s basket opened the fourth quarter.
After a Hilton-Bey basket, sophomore David Ross blocked a Poet shot, leading to Kalial Colclough’s layup. Sands denied a Dunbar shot and Hilton-Bey buried a 3-pointer, pushing Carver’s advantage back out to 42-33 with 6 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Bears extended the lead to 14 late as they finished with 12 blocks Tuesday. Ross, in his first season of organized ball, accounted for seven denials and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
“I just try to play my role,” said Ross, 6-foot-5, who hit a short jumper as part of Carver’s decisive 18-6 fourth quarter run. “I don’t try to worry too much about mistakes on offense…I got two more years to develop and grow.”
Carver, whose biggest success over the last two decades was winning the Baltimore City Division III title in 2015, had a breakout season last winter, reaching the Class 2A North Region I final.
Parker, an assistant last season under Travis Winstead, coached the entire returning Bears roster on the AAU circuit in the summer.
“We’ve been putting in hard work since August,” said Sands, a 6-3 guard. “We’ve been together for 106 days.”
Day 106 Tuesday started slow for Carver, trailing 5-0 early. The Bears responded with a 14-2 run to close the period. It was 18-7 early in the second after a Sands basket.
Dunbar pulled to 18-15 with 3 minutes, 24 seconds left in the period before a Hilton-Bey layup started a 10-2 run to put Carver back in control, 28-17 at halftime. The Bears upped the margin to 34-19 in the third after another Hilton-Bey basket, but the Poets closed the period on a 12-1 run, capped by Otis Toney’s follow-up.
Hart opened the fourth with a jumper, pulling Dunbar to 35-33. The Poets got no closer as Carver’s defense flustered them around the basket.
“That was our best defensive effort against a really good team,” said Parker. “Our number is 38…can’t hold really good teams to 38 but that wasn’t bad.”
“Granted they (Carver) blocked a lot of shots, but we missed a lot of point blank layups,” said Dunbar coach Dana Johnson. “We started off strong defensively then had major breakdowns at the wrong time. Once we made a mistake, it led to another and another.”
Carver has been under the radar this season with losses to city champ and undefeated City, city finalist Edmondson and Lake Clifton, which has won three straight state titles. City, Edmondson and Lake Clifton are in Thursday’s region final round.
The Bears will try to claim their first region crown Thursday at Overlea, which defeated Eastern Tech, 77-47, in the other region semifinal in Baltimore County.
The Falcons, who reached the 2A state semifinals, defeated Carver, 56-36, in last year’s region final.
“Last year, it was about competing,” said Parker. “This year is about winning…I know they want to win. We’re ready to go and do the work we’ve done all year.”
Class 2A North Region 2 semifinal
Carver Vo-Tech 53, Dunbar 44
Dunbar - Hart 20, Toney 7, Suite 6, Taylor 6, Duplessis 3, Downing 2. Totals 16 8-16 44.
Carver - Sands 19, Hilton-Bey 17, Green 8, Colclough 5, Ross 4. Totals 21 10-16 53.
Dunbar 7 10 14 13 - 44
Carver 14 14 7 18 - 53