Teira Pendleton's fierce competitive streak shows on her face in every Poly basketball game. Intensely focused and in the moment, her physical inside presence has been a factor on both sides of the ball as the No. 8 Engineers advanced to the Class 4A state semifinals for the second year in a row.

The 5-foot-8 junior forward-guard leads a young team into Thursday's 3 p.m. state semifinal at UMBC against Walt Whitman with 12.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. She is also a key component in a defense that allows just 26.57 points per game. Planning to play basketball in college, Pendleton has visited a handful of programs, including Quinnipiac, Wofford, Winthrop, George Mason and Claflin.

However, she is looking at academics first. Planning to become a pediatrician, she has a 3.8 GPA in Poly's challenging A Course.

How did you get started playing basketball?

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When I was 7, my father took me to Pikesville Middle School. There was a Saturday league in the morning there. We'd get put on a team and just practice the fundamentals and play games against each other, nothing too serious, just a start to the game.

When did you start really liking the game?

Once I started getting the hang of it and when I joined the team I'm currently on (Shooting Stars' Team Maryland). I've been with the same group of girls my entire AAU career, so I guess forming that bond and developing my skills definitely made me grow.

What is your role on the Poly team?

Most of my coaches refer to me as the workhorse and the leader of the team. I have to be the most composed throughout everything, so that everyone else won't be frantic. If they see someone who's their leader doing what they're supposed to do, then it will transfer, and I think that's why we've gotten so far.

You're not the most vocal person in the world, but is that a role you're trying to take on as one of the older players?

It's always been my thing to lead by example, but after the departure of our seniors last year, I have had to become a more vocal person and I'm still working on it now.

What's the key to your team's defense?

We definitely, definitely don't want the other team scoring. That's our thing. We know good defense will develop good offense, and since we all like to play offense, we have to play good defense in order to get it. We're growing as far as talking, and I think that game on Friday (Class 4A North regional championship win, 45-43, at Paint Branch) showed our growth on defense. But that's our program — defense first.

How do you think playing in states last year will help you this year?

I can’t say it will help a lot because we lost most of the girls who played last year (laughs), but for the people who were there, I think we’ll be able to tell everyone else how it is and what to expect and not to be too nervous but to play your game.

Why did you come to Poly?

Academics. I want to be a pediatrician, so the science field definitely stuck out to me when choosing this school. I didn't really hear a lot about the basketball program, so that wasn't really even on my list. After I decided this is where I wanted to go, I started taking a liking to the team. I came to a couple of games.

Are you involved in any other activities in or out of school?

Usually in my spare time or in the summer, I love to work with children. My grandmother works at a day care center, so sometimes I volunteer there. It's where I got all of my community service hours.

Have you always enjoyed being around children?