Tawian McNeary and Tim Hunter developed a special bond off the court the moment they met.
“We met at a summer job three or so years ago and then started playing ball together, and we just had a great chemistry on the court,” McNeary said.
The two senior forwards combined for 37 points and keyed a devastating 20-0 first half run that propelled Marine Military to the 68-61 victory over Longwood in the championship game of the Blue/Green Public League bracket Wednesday at Dunbar.
McNeary scored a game-high 19 points and added seven rebounds and Hunter contributed 18 points and six rebounds for the Bulldogs (17-7), a six-year varsity program that captured its first-ever Public League tournament title.
After the teams exchanged three-point baskets to start the game, Marine floored the Panthers by scoring the final 18 points of the quarter for a stunning 21-3 lead.
“That’s just the way we’ve been the whole year,” McNeary said, “coming out of the gate swinging and playing with a lot of energy.”
McNeary drilled a three-pointer from the left baseline and scored five points during the burst. He scored 11 points in the first half. Hunter scored six of his total in the first quarter. Guard Johnny Ware punctuated the run by drilling a three-pointer from the top of the key at the first quarter buzzer. McNeary scored on a putback at the start of the second quarter to extend the amazing flourish to 20-0.
Longwood’s Xavier Murrey (13 points) finally ended the seven-minute scoring drought with a putback in the lane. Longwood (15-12) fought back in the second quarter, forcing 11 Marine turnovers in pulling within 35-25 at the break.
“We had to start taking better care of the ball and just settle down,” Hunter said. “We got it back with defense, too.” McNeary and Hunter combined for the Bulldogs’ first seven points of the second half. Longwood pulled within six points midway through the third quarter. That was the closest they came.
Ware scored on a dazzling left-handed scoop just before the end of the third quarter that restored a firm double-digit (48-36) lead. Romeo Smith, a bouncy 6-6 junior, added nine points, 14 rebounds and two blocked shots for the Bulldogs.
Rashad Dawson scored 16 points to lead four double-figure scorers for the Panthers. Olando White contributed 14 points and David Nelson added 10 points.