Western's girls basketball team was in too much of a hurry to win a state championship Saturday. Walt Whitman's patient approach worked much better.
The No. 4 Doves rushed their offense early while Whitman worked for good shots — many of them 3-pointers — as the Vikings took an early lead and never trailed en route to a 71-55 victory for the Class 4A championship at Towson University's SECU Arena.
The Vikings (24-3) hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter, and even though they cooled off considerably after that, their first-quarter punch was enough to maintain at least a six-point lead. Western, on the other hand, hit just three of 13 shots in the opening quarter.
Abby Meyers hit back-to-back 3-pointers for the Vikings to build a 10-3 lead. Western's JJ Williams then banked in a shot, but Whitman scored seven straight points, capped by Hannah Niles' 3-pointer for a 17-5 lead.
The Doves put up quick shots and the Vikings grabbed 10 of the last 12 rebounds in the opening quarter.
"We were rushing," Western coach Tasha Townsend said. "I asked them several times to settle down, 'Let's play our game,' but we just couldn't get in our rhythm. I felt like my leadership wasn't on the floor today. I had to yell too much. I did too much of what I normally don't do."
The Doves (24-2) chipped away at the lead in the second quarter, helped by 3-pointers from Williams and Cache' Waters. They pulled within six early in the third quarter when Jasmen Walton hit the first basket of the half and Jadia Jackson added a free throw.
Whitman's Emily Meyers then hit two free throws and Betsy Knox added a 3-pointer to spark a 13-5 Vikings run. They boosted the lead to 42-28 on Abby Meyers' runner with 2:08 left in the quarter.
Abby Meyers — a junior who will play college basketball at Michigan, Northwestern, Princeton or Stanford — led the Vikings with 21 points, including four 3-pointers. Niles added 18 and a third Meyers sister, Olivia, scored 11.
Williams led the Doves with 12 points while Makayla Pickens and Waters scored 10 each.
After the first quarter, the Doves hit the offensive boards harder and outscored the Vikings, 18-15, on second-chance points, but their pressure defense did little to throw off their opponents from Bethesda.
Whitman coach Peter Kenah said he expected the Doves, who beat Parkdale, 65-39, in Thursday's semifinal, to bring "Baltimore pride" — to be aggressive and constantly attack the rim.
"When you start the second half and they make a couple baskets … I just thought the composure of this group really, really helped us with some key plays," said Kenah, whose team rolled over North Point, 64-37, in the semifinal and finished the season with a 19-game winning streak.
Western, the Baltimore City Division I champion, hadn't been to the state tournament since 2010. Although the Doves tied a state record with their 15th appearance in the final four, they haven't won a championship since 1995.
"I don't think there's really no excuse for it," said Williams, one of only three Doves seniors. "We were just here on Thursday, so I don't really feel a difference, but it's like we tried to play a different game and not Western's game."
Walt Whitman 71, 4Western 55
WW—O.Meyers 11, Gordon 2, A.Meyers 21, Niles 18, E.Meyers 4, Hatch 7, Knox 8. Totals 22 19-22 71.
WE—Walton 6, Pickens 10, Williams 12, Johnson 4, Walker 4, Waters 10, Jackson 9. Totals 18 16-25 55. ijkHalf: WW, 29-20.