When Dunbar guard Shylia Buie talks about the No. 4 Poets' drive toward the state Class 1A girls basketball final, she refers to a favorite saying of assistant coach Tyesha Clark: "Teamwork makes the dream work."
Buie led that team-oriented charge in Friday night's Class 1A semifinal against Kent County, dishing out nine of the Poets' 20 assists and helping Michelle Wright and Damisha Hazelton dominate the paint en route to an 84-43 victory at UMBC's RAC Arena.
The Poets (19-6) will play for their sixth state title — all since 2000 — when they face Western Tech at 6 p.m. Saturday at UMBC. With another title, they would become only the fourth program in the 40-year history of the tournament to win six times.
Kent County coach Carroll Jackson-Smith, whose tallest player was 5-foot-8, said the Trojans (18-5) had never seen an inside combo like 5-foot-9 All-Metro forward Wright, who scored 30 points, and 6-foot center Hazelton, who scored 14.
"When it comes to the size, we're just not used to seeing a team that has a lot of big girls," Jackson-Smith said. "They may be tall and thin, but these girls had some meat on their bones, and it makes a world of difference and … we were not used to the banging that we saw today."
The Poets scored 60 points in the paint and shot 51 percent from the floor. They also outrebounded the Trojans, 49-35, as Hazelton grabbed 11 boards and Wright and Julia Gunthrop each had seven.
In the first half, Wright and Hazelton combined for 18 points with Hazelton picking up the slack in the first quarter when Wright went to the bench with two fouls less than three minutes into the game.
"Before the game started, I knew it was going to up to the big people to get a lot of points, because of our size advantage," Hazelton said. "We already had our game plan set out, so when Michelle went out, I felt like it was more intense, like you have to do extra now because one of the best people is out."
Wright, who scored 40 points in last year's state final, returned about two minutes into the second quarter and scored 10 points in less than four minutes to boost the Poets' seven-point lead to 13.
The outcome was never in doubt as the Poets stretched a 30-19 halftime lead to 59-24 by the close of the third quarter. They hit their first seven shots after the break and 10 of 14 in the third quarter.
Wright and Hazelton combined for 14 points in the third quarter, but the guards also found paths to the hoop for layups as Shamar Prilliman drove for eight points.
"At the beginning of the game, we noticed they were smaller than us," Buie said, "so we had to keep taking them inside each time. I pulled the other guard, Shamar Prilliman, to the side and just told her every time they come up to you just take them to the basket because they can't guard you."
Ten Poets scored, with Buie contributing 13 points and Prilliman 10. Deja Jones and Jasmine Lee led the Trojans, who were making their first appearance in the semifinals since 1991, with 14 points each.
K—Frazier 4, J.Lee 14, Copper 1, Baker 7, Jones 14, Bowser 3. Totals: 15 12-25 43.
D—Gunthrop 2, Johnson 3, Buie 13, McIver 3, James 2, Lawson 2, Prilliman 10, Stackhouse 2, Wright 30, Cannon 6, Hazelton 14. Totals 39 4-6 84.
Half: D, 30-19.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun