Dwayne Chastain had the face of a beaten warrior. A shiner was welling up under the Thurgood Marshall senior’s left eye. The white of that eye was gone, replaced by a blood clot.
But there was a smile on his face. Beating Dunbar always hurts so good.
“It meant a lot to us,” Chastain said among congratulators following a season-defining 62-55 defeat of Dunbar in the boys high school basketball Division II regional semifinals at sold-out Trent Arena on Thursday night.
“This wasn’t just a game. This was more than a game.”
Dunbar swept the regular-season series between the City League rivals. But Thurgood won when it mattered most.
The Cougars (21-6) will play Cincinnati Taft (19-6) in Saturday’s 3 p.m. regional final also at Trent. At stake is a spot in next week’s state final four at Columbus.
Tension between the players seemed especially high. Dunbar (23-4) was no match for charged-up Thurgood. The Wolverines led 2-0 and played catch-up from then on.
Thurgood received a game-high 18 points from Chastain and led by 12 at halftime. Davion Ashe added 15 points for Thurgood and 6-foot-8 sophomore center Derrick Daniels had 11 points and several key blocks.
Thurgood’s inspired play wasn’t lost on Dunbar coach Pete Pullen.
“Their inside play shut us down,” he said. “We couldn’t do nothing inside. We didn’t contest and every time we went up they did a great job of contesting. I take my hat off to their intensity and how they played and reacted to us every time we drove the lane.”
Doriane Dawson led Dunbar with 13 points. Amos “A.J.” Harris added 12 points. He suffered a high ankle sprain in the previous district championship defeat of Carroll and didn’t start.
William Green, Evan Clayborne and Terrance Landers all added eight points for Thurgood.
At a key moment well into the fourth quarter RaChaun Martin stripped Harris and fed a streaking Chastain for a dunk. It neatly summed up Dunbar’s fate; just as the Wolverines seemed to be making a run, the Cougars answered with a great play.
The teams didn’t stick around for the customary postgame handshake. Instead, Thurgood coach Darnell Hoskins herded the Cougars off the court and into their locker room. He then met Pullen at midcourt.
“They’re Dunbar for a reason,” Hoskins said. “They’re built on a lot of tradition. … Anytime you can get a victory against those guys, it’s a great measuring stick to where your program’s headed.”
Cin. Taft 47, Col. Eastmoor Academy 44: Ahead by one, Taft missed two free throws with less than 10 seconds remaining to allow Eastmoor a shot to win. However, Eastmoor (20-6) inexplicably drew a five-second call when senior Shamonty Manning froze with the ball.
The resulting turnover gave possession back to Taft, which hit two more free throws to clinch Wednesday’s regional semi opener.