Losing by 26 points in last year’s regional semifinals to El Paso Andress, Fort Worth Dunbar took that personally.
But on Friday night, the same Dunbar team that returned to regionals didn’t show up in the first half.
We came out and got a good whipping put on us last year and we remember that, so we came out tight.
Dunbar coach Robert Hughes, Jr. on the Wildcats’ tough first half
Rather than go down lightly, the Wildcats turned the heat up defensively in the second half to beat El Paso Burges 62-53 in a Class 5A Region I semifinal at Western Texas College.
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“We came out and got a good whipping put on us last year and we remember that, so we came out tight,” coach Robert Hughes Jr. said. “But I knew if I could settle them down and have them make a couple layups, we could have the momentum going.”
Dunbar (22-11) plays Wichita Falls Rider (24-10), which beat Andress 72-61, in the 5A Region I final at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Trailing 27-13 with 2:35 left in the second quarter, the Wildcats went on a 26-9 run to go up three heading to the final quarter.
Dunbar’s run would only increase from there, going to 38-13 as the Wildcats went up double figures to seal the victory.
Senior guard Logan Ray tied the game at 33-33 in the third quarter. Five seconds later, senior guard Jo’von Henderson got the steal and was fouled, giving Dunbar the 34-33 lead at the line before Ray had five straight points to push it to six.
The turning point was when Tobias [Phillips] kept pushing it, I saw him hustling and the team started coming along.
Dunbar senior forward Quinton Brigham
After shooting 4 of 18 in the first quarter and 5 of 25 in the first half, Dunbar was 16 of 36 (44 percent) after halftime.
“The turning point was when Tobias [Phillips] kept pushing it, I saw him hustling and the team started coming along,” said senior forward Quinton Brigham, who had a team-high 19 points and 17 rebounds.
The Wildcats scored 26 points off 21 turnovers committed by Burges, which only converted nine points off 15 turnovers. The Mustangs were held to 29 percent shooting in the second half.
“Defense, defense wins games,” Ray said. “It’s just momentum and it gets everybody pumped. We just wanted another one and another one.”
Brigham scored 15 points in the second half. Ray chipped in with 17 points, 12 after halftime, and went 4 of 4 from the free throw line to help Dunbar end the first half on an 8-2 run and cut its deficit to 29-21 at the break.
“Logan hit some big shots and got momentum on our side,” Hughes said.
We just have to stay with the scheme and master our objective. We will have to finish what we came here to do.
Robert Hughes Jr.
Dunbar, a three-time state champion, looks to advance to its 14th UIL state tournament, set for next week at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Dunbar hasn’t been to state since 2007, losing in the state semifinals.
“We just have to stay with the scheme and master our objective. We will have to finish what we came here to do,” Hughes said.
The Wildcats lost 81-60 in a tuneup game to Dallas API Academy on Feb. 20, but have since been winning by an average margin of 10.8 points in four playoff games.
Dunbar last played Rider in last year’s regional quarterfinals, winning 81-77.