When it was finally finished, after Thurgood Marshall had survived a frenetic late rally by rival Dunbar, there was no joyous locker room celebration. The Cougars, in fact, seemed nearly oblivious to the fact they'd just won the school's first City league basketball title.
For Thurgood, which led throughout the afternoon en route to a 59- 53 victory at UD Arena, there's a loftier focus as the playoffs approach.
"It feels good. We were supposed to win in this year. We feel like it's our year," said Cougars senior guard Mark Al-stork. "We really haven't talked about the City (title) that much. We've talked about the state championship. We've got big goals."
Thurgood (20-1) used its typical pressure defense and offensive rebounding prowess to build a lead that swelled to 16 points with six minutes remaining. But Dunbar didn't hand over city bragging rights without a fight. The Wolverines (15-5) ramped up their defensive pressure, forcing one turnover after another and converting on the break and at the free-throw line.
With their once-cushy lead trimmed to four, the Cougars regained their composure. Junior guard Tremayne Hawkins ended a five-minute field-goal drought and then hit a couple of free throws to seal the win.
"We need to come out and dominate and not let them back in the game," said Thurgood guard Rayshaun Martin (10 points, six assists).
Thurgood, which has one game left in the regular season, capitalized on 14 offensive rebounds and held Dun-bar to six points in the second quarter before another game-changing spurt by Alstork. The 6-foot-3 guard, who's made a habit of second-half outbursts, scored 12 of his team-high 15 points in a five-minute span during the third quarter.
Alstork also collected eight rebounds, while 6-6 senior Darren Groves grabbed 10.
"I think we did a good job of keeping the game in the 50s, which is what we wanted to do," Dunbar coach Peter Pullen said. "We don't have the depth to run with them like we usually do."
If history indicates how the playoffs unfold, though, his team will get another shot at Thurgood. The two schools have met in the postseason three times in the past four years.
"Hopefully we see each other for the third time," Cougars coach Darnell Hoskins said.
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