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Western Tech girls basketball advances to 2A North Region final with win over Loch Raven

Breakfast, followed by morning basketball, proved to be the right ingredients for the Western Tech girls basketball team, which overcame a sluggish start before pouring it on in the final three quarters of a 55-18 victory over Loch Raven in the Class 2A North Region Section I finals at Western Tech.

The win advances the Wolverines (14-8) to the regional championship game against Hereford on Monday at 4 or 6 p.m. at Western Tech.

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Neither Western Tech nor Loch Raven shot well in the first quarter when they traded missed layups and free throws.

"I thought we kind of had a sluggish start, which is expected on a Saturday morning," said Western Tech coach Alan Lagon, citing the 11 a.m. start. The Wolverines led only 6-3 after the first five minutes.

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Freshman Kayla Spruill hit a three-pointer with 2:50 left, giving Western Tech a 9-3 lead before Lexi Tan's two free throws cut the deficit to 9-5 with 2:08 left in the quarter.

That was the closest Loch Raven (11-13) would get.

The Wolverines outscored them, 46-7, until the final minute of the game when the Raiders scored on a three-pointer by Savannah Parsons and conventional three-point play by Robyn Memphis.

Loch Raven was led in scoring by junior Tan (six points).

"We never even got into it," Loch Raven coach Bo Brooks said. "Our best three minutes of the game were the last three minutes of the game when it was carefree,"

Once Western Tech's trapping defense took over, the Wolverines' offense started to click.

"Defense is our main motivator, so if we get a steal or a good block that spurs our offense a we get lot transition buckets," said senior Deja Dennis, who finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

Spruill, who had 19 points in the Wolverines' 48-39 win over Dunbar in the sectional semifinals, led the Wolverines with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

"She had a great game,"  Lagon said of the all-county first-team selection. "She has been playing really well since December."

Senior Ashley Gourdine contributed 13 points and five assists.

Lagon agreed that it was the defense, which also included strong play from Madison Leggette and Kayla Moore, that got the Wolverines in gear.

"I've been preaching defense from day one and if you play good defense, chances are you are going to win," Lagon said.

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Loch Raven's offense and its two top scorers, Tan and freshman Natalie Berkey, never got untracked. They average between 10 and 12 points a game, but were held to a combined seven.

Western Tech hopes it can play a complete game in the regional championship game against a Hereford squad that defeated the Wolverines, 50-42, in the first game of the season.

Dennis, who along with Gourdine, played on the Western Tech state championship team that defeated Dunbar in 2013 and on the 2012 state finalist that lost to Dunbar, recalled little about the first Hereford meeting.

"I don't remember details about the game," Dennis said. "I remember the postgame. I was both frustrated and excited because it was the first game and we had all come together and it was pretty close from what I remember."

Leggett, a junior forward, didn't play in that contest, which was the first under new coach Lagon, who took over for Nolan Roe.

"Hereford is a really good basketball program and they showed that at the beginning of the year, and we are a young team and that's basically what it was in week one," Lagon said. "Hopefully we learned from that experience."

Dennis compared this year's team to the two that went to the state finals.

"Those past teams were mostly talent-strong, and we relied on our size, but the chemistry is so much stronger on this team, so I think that will be a big factor."

Loch Raven will return all five starters next season.

"I'm excited about the program, disappointed about the outcome of this game, but overall, we made good strides," Brooks said.

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