Can’t beat that: Dunbar wins court decision and sectional final

Dunbar won its second straight significant decision on Wednesday night, edging Fenwick to win a boys sectional basketball championship. The day before a win in court allowed the Wolverines back into tournament.

The offensively challenged 27-26 victory sends Dunbar (18-4) into a Division II high school basketball district final against Cincinnati Woodward (16-9) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Hamilton High School. That site was switched by the Southwest District prior to Wednesday’s game.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association disqualified Dunbar from the tournament last week, citing an ineligible player. Dayton City League rival Thurgood Marshall was put in Dunbar’s place in the D-II bracket, because that was the last team Dunbar beat in the sectional semifinals.

However, Dayton Public Schools and Dunbar contested that decision. A ruling in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court overturned the OHSAA on Tuesday, allowed Dunbar back into the tourney and knocked Thurgood out. Both teams had been practicing, not knowing which would play Fenwick.

It was the second time in about 18 months the OHSAA had disqualified Dunbar from a postseason. The Wolverines also were dismissed from the 2016 football playoffs for an ineligible player.

“We’ve had a long week,” admitted a spent Dunbar coach Chuck Taylor, in his first season with the Wolverines. “Some of (the Dunbar players were) involved with the football situation. For it to happen in basketball, it was just a double whammy.”

That includes leading scorer and junior Jonathan Allen (seven points) and Jo-Jo-Scates (six points). Allen’s free throw put Dunbar up 25-22 with 1:58 left. Then it was Scates’ turn. He jumped off the court to save a loose ball and flipped it to Kadar Gardner for what stood as the winning bucket and 27-24 lead.

“(The OHSAA), they’re always picking on Dunbar,” said Scates, a talented receiver who signed with Iowa State University to play football. “It’s like a tradition, now. There’s a lot of doubt that goes on in the city against Dunbar. We take that as motivation and use it to our advantage.”

Fittingly, the game also was an oddity. Fenwick (17-7) was packed in a tight zone defense like it had mostly used to win a Greater Catholic League Co-Ed North championship. Dunbar hoped to draw the Falcons out by holding the ball.

Instead, the final four minutes of the third quarter and the opening five minutes of the fourth quarter were spent with Dunbar players standing still with the ball and Fenwick defenders watching motionless.

“I didn’t know what was going on until my coach explained it to me,” Scates said. “I said, oh, I get what we’re doing now. I was kind of confused about it myself.”

Fans from both teams erupted throughout, pleading for action.

“We had to figure out a way to bring those guys out,” said Taylor.

Fenwick’s C.J. Napier hit two free throws with 5.8 seconds left to account for the final score. However, he missed the third. But Allen also missed a following free throw for Dunbar.

That gave Fenwick one final possession, but Napier was tied up at half court and couldn’t get a shot off. John Engelmeier led Fenwick with 12 points.

“It ended up working,” Taylor said. “We’re just happy to move on.”

Cin. Deer Park 72, Stivers 63: The Tigers’ bid to shock the D-III boys tourney came tantalizing close until unraveling in the final minutes Wednesday night at UD Arena. Stivers (12-14) was a monumental underdog but led the unbeaten Wildcats throughout. Deer Park ended on a 9-2 run to derail the youthful Dayton City League member.

Deer Park (25-0) will play Cin. Purcell Marian (20-6) in a D-III regional semifinal next week. Sophomore Trevon Ellis led Stivers with 19 points. Another sophomore, Da’Juan Allen added 14 points and freshman Allen Lattimore 12. Mark Wise led Deer Park with 24 points.

Cin. Madeira 57, Versailles 51: Versailles overcame a 17-point, second-half deficit to pull even but Madeira recovered in the opening boys D-III district final at UD at Wednesday.

It was the end of a celebrated and high-scoring era for Versailles senior Justin Ahrens. His 3-pointer with about three minutes left in the fourth quarter pulled Versailles even at 48-all. Madeira answered with a game-ending 9-3 run.

A.J. Ahrens, Justin’s twin brother and also a senior, led Versailles with 15 points. Justin Ahrens, a 6-6 senior who signed with Ohio State University, added 13 points and Michael Stammen 12 for Versailles (21-5). Jack Cravaack led Madeira (18-7) with 22 points and 12 rebounds.

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