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DuVal boys’ basketball finishes off Suitland in close game

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Photo by Daniel Kucin. DuVal’s Mike Cunningham scores 27 points in the Tigers’ close win.

Photo by Daniel Kucin. DuVal’s Mike Cunningham scores 27 points in the Tigers’ close win.

Published on: Thursday, January 31, 2013

By Daniel Kucin

Mike Cunningham led the DuVal Tigers to victory once again.

Cunningham scored27 points and snatched three rebounds against Suitland last Tuesday. Suitland traveled to Lanham riding on a three-game winning streak, despite losing star guard and University of Maryland commit Roddy Peters to an injury early this season.

Nevertheless, the Rams nearly stole a victory from the grasps of DuVal with a solid shooting performance by Marquette Brown and company in the second half.

“I give credit to Suitland, because that is a good program, and I told them that it was going to be a dogfight,” DuVal head coach Lafayette Dublin said. “They beat some really good teams. ... They are still trying to figure out what they have, and they are not a bottom-tier team, so you have to bring it or you will lose. I told them this could have been a playoff situation.”

The first half was muddled with turnovers. Suitland was forced to take low-percentage shots. In turn, DuVal coasted to an 11-point lead at halftime.

However, Cunningham scored only six of his 27 points in the first half, and Suitland started to take advantage of that. The Rams progressively displayed better ball movement while opening up scoring opportunities to draw close late in the third quarter.

“We weren’t really playing our style. We started out with four turnovers and taking it for granted,” Dublin said. “We were out of control, but I told them that it starts defensively, defense turns into offense.”

Suitland’s trio of scorers stepped up in the absence of Peters, who once resided as the conference’s leading scorer. The trio consisted of Marquette Brown, Nolen Dixon and Gerald Gray, who combined for 50 points.

DuVal struggled at the free-throw line — only making 17 of 22 attempts. That opened the door for the Rams.

Down by as much as 16 points, Suitland had to dig deep and hit big shots to make it a contest again. Brown and Dixon both knocked down three shots beyond the arc, but the game came down to two possessions in the fourth quarter.

With seconds remaining, Dixon pushed the ball down court and nailed a contested 3-pointer to cut the lead to two points.

Suitland had one final chance to win the game, but Tyree Wallace missed his attempt. Cunningham grabbed the rebound and streaked down the court to let the clock drain out.

“We wanted to come out in the second half and attack the rim,” Cunningham said. “I think we weren’t rotating on defense enough, and they were getting open threes. And the more threes you have, the closer you are going to get back in the game before anybody notices.”

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