One day, the Poly girls will look back at what happened the day they won their second straight regional title and laugh.
Aneah Young's three-point play with 1.2 seconds remaining gave No. 8 Poly a 45-43 victory over host Paint Branch in the Class 4A North regional championship game. That capped a wild and wacky Friday that started with the Engineers arriving at the Montgomery County school shortly before the start and ended with Young making a lay-up on a play where she just wanted to draw a foul.
The victory earned Poly (21-4) a spot in next Thursday's Class 4A state semifinal, where the Engineers will play Walt Whitman of Montgomery County in a 3 p.m. game at UMBC. Whitman topped Gaithersburg, 46-31, in the West final on Friday.
A transportation issue delayed Poly's arrival until 16 minutes before the scheduled 5 p.m. start time. The Engineers quickly dressed, and the game started about 35 minutes after they walked into the building.
"Everyone was real cool about it," Young said.
Poly coach Kendall Peace-Able said her kids stayed focused and didn't let those problems bother them.
"I have kids that don't want to lose, in the classroom or on the court," Peace-Able said. "They just don't want to lose."
Poly led for most of the game, shutting down Paint Branch (21-4) with a tough zone defense. The Engineers took a 33-25 lead into the fourth quarter.
But Paint Branch forced seven turnovers in the first four minutes of the period for a 15-2 run and a 40-35 lead. Kiara Colston scored eight of her game-high 19 points during that run.
Junior Teira Pendleton (14 points, 13 rebounds) sparked Poly with back-to-back layups 28 seconds apart. The first one was a three-point play, and the second tied the game at 40 with 2:57 left.
She added another put-back for a 42-41 lead with 11.9 seconds left. Colston answered again with a runner in the lane that gave Paint Branch a one-point lead with 7.1 seconds remaining.
That's when some more craziness happened.
Poly appeared to turn the ball over in the backcourt, with at least one official calling a double-dribble. But Peace-Able raced down the sideline and called a timeout with 5.1 seconds left.
The Engineers set up a play where Young would get the ball near midcourt and race to the basket in hopes of drawing a foul.
Young took the inbounds pass from Jasmine Smith and took off. A lane opened up, and the 5-foot-11 sophomore forward went right to the basket for a layup and also got fouled.
Peace-Able yelled to Young to miss the free throw on purpose, but she didn't hear the coach and made the shot.
"I was really nervous," Young said. "I was just amazed that it opened up like that [in the lane]."
The Panthers then missed a long shot, and Poly escaped with a victory.
"They have nothing to be ashamed about," Paint Branch coach Rochelle Coleman said. "They left it all out there."
Class 4A North Region
Poly 45, Paint Branch 43
PO-Ross 2, Stokes 2, Smith 12, Young 11, Pendleton 14, Okoroie 4. Totals: 18 6-11 45.
PB-Harris 8, Ashe 6, Colston 19, E. French 6, Holland 4. Totals: 14 13-18. Half: PO, 21-19.