Poly's inside game proved too much for City to overcome in Tuesday night's girls basketball showdown between archrivals who went into the game undefeated in Baltimore City's Division I.
The No. 2 Engineers exploited their dominance in the paint all along, but especially in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter when they took the lead for good en route to a 50-45 victory over the No. 7 Knights.
Poly senior forward Teira Pendleton, who finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, hit a layup to open the fourth quarter. A few seconds later, after City center Sabreen Muslim grabbed a defensive rebound, Pendleton stole the ball under the basket and finished off a 3-point play.
The Engineers (20-1) only outrebounded the Knights 45-39, but Pendleton and her front court teammates Morgan Newton (eight points, 10 rebounds) and Nkeiruka Okororie combined for 27 boards.
"Of course we're a defensive team, so we rely on our rebounding, which gives us our offense, which will also get us our transition points," Pendleton said. "We worked a lot on boxing out and we got rebounds. It was the will. We know the rivalry, and we just wanted to take over and show them what we were about."
The Engineers have won 14 straight games since falling to Bethlehem Catholic (Pa.) in a holiday tournament, but no win is ever tougher than against City. Last year, the Knights won the regular season matchup, 48-40, and went on to the city Division I final. The previous year, Poly beat City, 37-33, in the final.
This could be the first of three meetings within three weeks for the Engineers and the Knights (18-2). If City beats Dunbar Thursday, the Knights would get a second shot at Poly in the Baltimore City Division I championship at Morgan State on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. They could also meet in the Class 3A East sectional playoffs, which begin late next week.
Neither team managed more than a five-point lead on Tuesday until Jayda Pearson's 3-pointer gave Poly a 30-24 lead midway through the third quarter. City's DeAsia Meyers, who led the Knights with 14 points, answered with a nifty tough-angle baseline jumper and finished off a three-point play that seemed to spark her team.
The Knights ended the quarter with six straight points as Koraan Sydnor hit two baskets and fed Muslim with four seconds left to force a 34-34 tie, the sixth tie of the game.
A minute after Pendleton broke the tie with five points to open the fourth quarter, Khepera Stokes nailed a 3-pointer to boost Poly's lead to 42-34 with 5:56 left. They ran it as high as 44-35 on Aneah Young's basket with 4:12 to go.
The Knights rallied to within four with 56 seconds left, but they were without 5-foot-10 Shamara Bell, who fouled out with about three minutes left.
Bell, who had 11 rebounds, led the defense against the powerful duo Pendleton (5 feet 9) and Newton (5-11), whose follow shot with 28 seconds left all but sealed the win.
"Shamara doesn't have the biggest body in the world, but man she hustles," City coach George Petrides said. "She gets in there and gets position and gets all kinds of junk rebounds and shots in there. Yeah, it hurt us when she went out."
The Knights also shot just 5-for-12 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
No. 2 Poly 50, No. 7City 45
P—Stokes 5, Young 10, Newton 8, Pendleton 19, Pearson 6, Okororie 2. Totals 17-13-29 50.
C—Meyers 14, Burton 9, Bell 2, Ka.Sydnor 3, Ko.Sydnor 12, Madden 1, Muslim 4. Totals: 16 9-24 45. Half: P, 25-21.