Only one person on Poly's bench at Wednesday night's Baltimore City Division I girls basketball championship had ever won a city title — coach Kendall Peace-Able as an Engineers senior in 1996.
Now, after a hard-fought 37-33 victory over No. 10 City at Baltimore City Community College, everyone on the bench has a trophy.
Blair Harding's 3-pointer with 2:26 to go and three Jasmine Smith free throws in the final 1:02 sealed the win for the No. 3 Engineers, who shot 2-for-20 from the field in the second half. Poly (20-0) had been in the city final twice in the last four years and lost both to Western.
"I'm a senior, so it's awesome," Poly forward Keli Alston said. "I get to walk away my senior year with a city championship. We were here last year, and I was very hurt and I refused to lose this time, because I wasn't walking away empty."
The Engineers used a series of small runs to fuel their victory and deny archrival City (17-6) its fourth title in nine years.
First, they broke out of a 14-14 tie with a nine-point run to close the half, taking a 23-14 lead on Teira Pendleton's layup off a pass from Harding.
City cut it to 27-24 on Koraan Sydnor's short jumper midway through the fourth quarter, but Pendleton hit a baseline jumper and Smith and Jillian Lee each hit a free throw to push the lead to 31-26 with 4:01 left.
When Smith hit a pair of free throws with 1:02 to go and then stole the ball, the Knights appeared doomed, but they continued to play tough defense and created some chances. After Sydnor hit a free throw, they forced a Poly turnover and Burton fed Tyla Bates to pull within 36-33 with 10 seconds left.
Time ran down and the Knights were forced to foul. Smith hit the front end with 5.9 seconds to all but assure the win.
City, which got 16 points from sophomore point guard Dyzhaney "Dada" Burton, hit one more field goal than the Engineers but struggled from the free-throw line, going 6-for-14.
"I thought we played really good defense, third quarter especially," City coach George Petrides said, "but we just couldn't make the shots. They made the shots when they had to. They made the foul shots when they had to. I think the foul shots were double their way, but they made them; we didn't."
Shaun Crockett, who hit two 3-pointers in the first half, led the Engineers with 10 points. Alston scored six and grabbed 18 rebounds.
Mervo took a 10-point lead on Kelsey Gould's hook shot to end the first half, and the Mustangs went on to defeat Ben Franklin-Masonville, 56-38, in the Division II final.
The Bayhawks pulled within 29-22 with 3:55 left in the third quarter on consecutive three-point plays by Amia Howard and Tionna Timmons and a Timmons 3-pointer, but the Mustangs stretched their lead to 40-26 when Jasmine Henley fed Kiara Johnson late in the quarter.
Gould and Gibson led the Mustangs with 14 points each, while Howard scored 23 for the Bayhawks.
Poly 37, City 33
C—Burton 16, Ford 2, Bea 3, Sydnor 8, Bates 2, Hitchens 2. Totals 12 6-14 33.
P—Lee 3, Alston 6, Harding 5, Smith 6, Pendleton 5, Crockett 10, Newton 2. Totals 11 12-24 37. Half: P, 37-33.
Half: P, 23-14.
Mervo 56, Ben Franklin-Masonville Cove 38
M—Barnes 11, Bass 1, Crawford 6, Gould 14, Johnson 7, T.Gibson 14, Henley 3. Totals 21 13-22 56.
BF—Miller 3, Timmons 8, Howard 23, Shongo 4. Totals 13 10-19 38. Half: M, 21-13.
Recent Baltimore City girls basketball champions
2011 Western 45, Poly 37
2010 City 54, Digital Harbor 51
2009 Western 51, Dunbar 15
2008 Western 57, Poly 37
2007 Western 53, City 47
2006 Western 81, City 18
2005 City 45, Western 43
2004 City (opponent and score unknown)
2003 Western 59, Dunbar 55
2002 Dunbar 67, Walbrook 62
2001 Western 53, Dunbar 51
2000 Dunbar 52, Western 51
2011 Southwestern 66, Southside 29Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun