Poly's girls basketball team came a long way back against undefeated North Point in Saturday's Class 4A state championship. The Engineers just couldn't make it all the way.
No. 8 Poly rallied from 20 points down in the third quarter, cutting North Point's lead to three before the Eagles regrouped to finish off a 62-56 victory for their first girls basketball title at UMBC's RAC Arena.
The Eagles (27-0), from Waldorf in Southern Maryland, were the only undefeated state champions in this year's tournament field, but Poly certainly made them earn their perfect ending.
With 5:37 to go in the third quarter, the Eagles appeared to be running away with the title when Khaila Prather's follow shot gave them a 41-21 lead. A couple of quick baskets then helped the Engineers (22-6) seize momentum and power a 23-6 run that brought them within 47-44 on Teira Pendleton's layup with 4:35 left in the game.
Pendleton, a junior forward, scored 15 of her 25 points in the second half.
"Coming out at halftime, we knew we were down, so it was basically push time," Pendleton said. "We didn't want this game to go the way it did, so we tried our hardest to come back. We did sufficiently. We just couldn't finish it off."
Two fouls put Tasia Butler (24 points) and KanDeon Niravanh on the line for four quick free throws. When Chalise Greenwood added a 3-pointer, the Eagles had a 54-44 lead with 2:42 to go and extended it to 58-44 on two more free throws from Niravanh with 1:20 left.
The Engineers kept fouling, but the Eagles were in the double bonus and hit enough free throws — 10 of 16 in the final 4:26 — to stay ahead.
"Those kids hustled their rear ends off the whole game," North Point coach Michael A. Serpone II said of the Engineers' efforts. "They didn't give up when they were down. At lot of it was, on our end, I was frustrated because we weren't executing. ... We needed to settle down, and once we settled down, their press turned into our layups."
Poly played its typically aggressive defense against a team that was equally quick, aggressive and deep. But the fouls started to mount early for the Engineers, who were also looking for their first state championship. That showed in the final statistics, as 29 Poly fouls helped North Point get to the line for 46 free throws. The Eagles hit 27 of them, which more than made up for scoring four fewer field goals than the Engineers.
"When the kids who had the better physical stature are touched, immediately it's a foul," Poly coach Kendall Peace-Able said. "I had the majority of my starters on the bench in the first half. Once we did get other people back on the floor, it made a larger difference, because we could add some more pressure."
The Engineers dug themselves a huge hole in the second quarter when they didn't score a basket and managed just four points on free throws. The Eagles ran a 19-13 lead to 32-17 by halftime. They took advantage of the Poly fouls, hitting nine of 12 free throws in the quarter.
Before Aneah Young banked in a shot with 6:31 left in the third quarter for Poly's first basket in nearly 10 minutes, the Eagles led 37-17. After the teams traded baskets, Poly used the same stingy defense it has all season to mount its comeback.
NP—Butler 24, Niravanh 9, Hodges 2, Greenwood 11, Vastey 3, Henderson 1, Mainor 5, Prather 7. Totals 17 27-46.
P—Ross 3, Stokes 9, Young 8, Pearson 5, Okororie 3, Smith 3, Pendleton 25. Totals 21 11-21. Half: NP, 32-17.
Calvert did not lead until the final three minutes of the third quarter but scored the last six points of the game to beat Middletown, 45-39, for its third straight Class 2A championship Saturday at RAC Arena.
Senior guard Alexis Smith scored 11 of her 18 points in the second half, including four in a nine-point Cavaliers run that gave them their biggest lead of the game, 39-32, early in the fourth quarter and finally erased the damage done by a 13-2 Middletown start. Knights forward Brittney George, who finished with 22 points, erased that Calvert lead with seven straight points in the paint to tie at 39.
Jasmine Weems' layup with 2:05 left broke the tie and held up as the game-winner for the Cavaliers (25-2), who scored 21 points off 19 Knights turnovers. Smith added a baseline jumper and Weems hit two free throws with 6.7 seconds left to secure the title over the Knights (20-8), who won the last of their four championships in 2006.
M—McLister 1, Racz 8, George 22, Tolino 8. Totals 13 11-17 39.
C—Gross 3, Weems 9, Smith 18, Gray 2, Thomas 2, Butler 11. Totals 17 6-14 45. Half: M, 25-20.