Top-seeded Dunham earned a spot in the Division III title game for the fourth straight year by turning back Newman, 59-55, in a semifinal played Tuesday at Dunham.
Senior team captain Salle Wilson had a game-high 25 points for the Tigers, while junior Carlos Stewart followed with 19.
But it was junior Rhett Greer who ignited the crowd with a key 3-pointer from the left corner down the stretch. Greer, who was fouled on the shot, converted the free throw for a 4-point play that gave the Tigers a 49-43 lead with just over three minutes remaining.
With the win, Dunham advances to play rival Episcppal, which upset Lafayette Christian, 51-41, in the title game later this week.
Newman kept up the fight until the end, but Greer’s trey gave the Tigers the cushion they needed.
“That was a big shot for us,” Dunham coach Jonathan Pixley said of Greer's play. “Just like our players have done all year, Rhett stepped up and made a big play just when we needed it.”
Freshman Chris Lockett led the scoring for Newman with 21 points, followed closely by junior Jaron Ruffin with 20. Lockett was one of two starting freshmen for the Greenies.
Dunham’s Wilson hit two 3-pointers and made an old fashioned three-point play to help the Tigers open up a 37-26 edge midway through the third period. Newman’s Ruffin responded by also hitting a pair of 3-pointers and making a layup basket to get the Greenies back into contention at 37-35 to start the fourth quarter.
Newman coach Randy Livingston commended his team for keeping up the pressure and never letting the Tigers relax.
“We’re just a young team right now and we made a few freshman mistakes,” Livingston said. “We didn’t execute in the fourth quarter and I thought that was the big difference. We thought we were in a good position to take the lead and pull it out, but you can’t make those kinds of mistakes against a team like Dunham.”
Newman kept battling back in the fourth quarter and finally narrowed the gap to 4 points with 12 seconds to play. But Wilson and Stewart combined to drain four consecutive free throws to seal the deal for Dunham.
The Tigers were eliminated in the finals last year in a close loss to Country Day.
Pixley said this year’s team, which starts just one senior, will have no problem closing out the season with its maximum effort.
“This group is hungry,” Pixley said. “We got knocked out last year, and this team wasn’t really supposed to be here. Now that we’ve made it this far, these guys can taste it. Getting them motivated is not going to be an issue.”