New Town to host Western Tech in girls basketball championship rematch

Fans of the New Town vs. Western Tech girls basketball rivalry should fasten their seatbelts. Another round of the action-packed series continues at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 1 at New Town High in the Class 1A North Region championship game.

The past three meetings, including the regular-season finale for both schools this year, have gone down to the wire.

None of the winners have surpassed 50 points, and each defense has played at high-octane levels.

Of course, that has also led to numerous turnovers and poor shot selection.

That’s what Western Tech coach Nolan Roe felt was the difference when the Wolverines (18-6) lost at home, 48-45 in the regular-season finale.

“Better shot selection was the message after that game,” Roe said. “We know we are going to shoot better shots. Sometimes, those are going to drop.”

New Town (18-5) shot slightly better and were led by Sydney Hines and Destiney Taylor Betts (14 points each), but when they needed two clutch free throws, clinging to a one-point lead with 9.9 seconds left, Tiana Davis delivered the goods.

Davis had practiced free-throw shooting all week and it paid off because it helped the Titans earn a Class 1A-2A division title and berth in the county championship game, which they lost to Milford Mill, 76-33.

Since that loss, the top-seeded Titans cruised through the region after a first round bye.

They blasted Perryville, 72-29 in the quarterfinals and Friendship Academy of Science and Technology (FAST), 60-7 in the semifinals.

Second-seeded Western Tech took a similar path of demolishing opposing foes.

After a first-round bye, they toppled Pikesville, 48-19 in the quarterfinals and Sparrows Point, 61-8 in the semis.

Western Tech took a 13-0 lead in the first quarter against visiting Sparrows Point and never looked back.

Junior guards Sydney Clopton (18 points, 6 assists, 5 steals) and Ebonee Dixon (14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals), junior forward Daija Coles (8 points, 7 rebounds) and sophomore forward Deja Dennis (9 points) led the Wolverines against the Pointers.

They played the game with an eye towards the date with New Town.

“I was looking toward the future and playing New Town and I knew what kind of defense we had to play,” Coles said. “I just acted like I was playing New Town and I stepped it up.”

Last year, they stepped it up twice against New Town, winning 45-42 during the regular-season and 42-36 in the regional championship.

That earned the Wolverine girls their first trip to the state tournament’s final four in school history.

Dixon missed last year’s 23-5 season and magical run to the state finals because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament and is eager for another chance to get back to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

“I feel like I’m more excited, but I feel like we have each other’s back and no matter what, we are going to go and do everything together — we’re going to stay strong,” Dixon said. “We stay together as a team and I’m looking for them to be behind my back and know they’ve got me and I’ve got them, so we’re just doing it together.”

Three seniors graduated from the 2012 state finalists, including point guard Tyshay Montgomery and 6-footers Jayde Duncan and Ateh Ade.

Duncan and Ade combined for 16 points and 24 rebounds in last year’s regional title game win over New Town and they’ve left this year’s squad a few messages of encouragement.

“They’ve been talking to us a lot,” Coles said. “They want us to carry it on because they didn’t get the opportunity to finish because we are like their little sisters, so they want us to do what they didn’t do,” Coles said.

Their departure forced the Wolverines to alter their offense this season.

“The shift in our offense allowed us to be a little more creative,” Roe said.

It also forced the squad to rely on team rebounding and the coach has been pleased with the result.

“I’m most impressed with our rebounding because our tallest girl is 5-foot-9 or 5-10,” Roe said.

Clopton hopes her team’s emotion on the court is better than it was in the last meeting against the Titans.

“We didn’t play as hungry,” Clopton said. “I feel like they played the hungriest.”

The prize for the winner should be enough to fuel each team’s hunger, but coach Roe has his thoughts on what may happen.

“I think it’s going to be a defensive battle again,” Roe said. “I think whoever keeps their heads the best, is going to win, because we are two similar teams and if either team gets frustrated or loses their cool, that turns into bad shots, so whoever keeps there composure is going to be the winner in that game.

“It’s going to be fun. That’s where most of our kids come from. It’s going to be a packed house.”

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