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No. 15 Lake Clifton boys basketball starts strong, holds off Dunbar, 59-52

At the end, it looked more like classic Dunbar vs. Lake Clifton boys basketball, with a fourth-quarter push from the Poets providing a hint of drama.

But mostly Wednesday, the visiting Lakers played stronger defense, hit the boards harder and had Deon McPherson and Jazae Jones effectively sharing the scoring duties.

McPherson scored 18 of his 21 points in the first half and Jones had 11 of his 19 in the second as No. 15 Lake Clifton built a 25-point lead before holding off the Poets to secure a 59-52 win in Baltimore City League play.

Lake Clifton improved to 7-4 on the season, while Dunbar, which got a 15-point effort from Brian Collins, fell to 6-3.

After McPherson outscored the Poets in a first half in which the Lakers took a 34-17 advantage, the visitors continued to dominate and increased the lead to 44-19 on a basket by Jones with 5:24 left in the third quarter. But Dunbar chipped away behind nine fourth-quarter points by Makhi Giddins to pull within 57-52 with 29 seconds left.

“Coming down to Dunbar with Dana Johnson — she’s a great coach — so even when we were up 20, in my mind the game was not over because I knew they would keep making a push,” Lake Clifton coach Herman “Tree” Harried said. “Our goal at that time was to at least try to keep scoring and we were able to.”

Having cut the lead to 50-37 going into the fourth quarter, the Poets got a follow from Giddins on their opening possession to pull within 11. They got four straight stops to provide an opportunity to further cut into the lead, but the Lakers’ defense proved just as stingy with four of its own stops.

After DaJohn Ellis (10 points) scored on a fast break to cut the lead to 50-41 with 5:04 remaining, Jones provided a pivotal answer with a strong three-point play with 4:51 left. It pushed the lead back up to 53-41 and gave the Lakers the lift they needed to close out the victory.

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“I try to make the plays for my team, just do what we can to win” Jones said.

McPherson had everything working in the first half to give the Lakers control. In the first quarter, he scored eight straight points and then opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer, a reverse layup and a three-point play before closing with two free throws in the final second for the 34-17 halftime lead.

“I just have to get comfortable, find myself and let the game come to me,” he said. “And I felt like the game came to me today and I just got it. I like to get myself going, so I can get my teammates up and then Coach Tree gets up and everybody is on a good note.”

Down by 25 points a couple minutes into the third quarter, the Poets did well to find their way back in the game, thanks in large part to a 10-1 run. The valiant comeback bid showed character, but Johnson is hoping to see more start-to-finish consistency from her team.

“We have to play with a sense of urgency all the time,” she said. “We have the athletes, but don’t have the size as other teams and we’re still trying to find that true hunger. So we have to play with a sense of urgency every possession from the opening jump. We got to find the mindset we had in the second half and play that way for 32 minutes.”

Both teams return to action at the 26th annual BCPS Basketball Academy, hosted by Dunbar, which features six games on Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, City will take on Rosedale Christian in the lone girls game at 4 p.m. followed by Dunbar boys against Woodlawn at 6 p.m.

Saturday’s four-game boys slate has Edmondson vs. C. Milton Wright at 1 p.m.; City vs. New Jersey’s Cliffside Park at 3 p.m.; Patterson vs. Oxon Hill at 5 p.m.; followed by the tournament nightcap featuring Lake Clifton against Archbishop Curley at 7 p.m.

LC — Jones 18, McPherson 21, Kennedy 4, Sewell 5, Nelson 9, Bethel 2. Totals: 18 15 – 25 59

D — To. Taylor , Ty. Taylor , Suite 8, Montgomery 4, Collins 15, Ellis 10, Giddins 9. Totals: 20 10 – 15 52

Halftime: LC, 34-17