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Second-half defense propels Pikesville girls basketball to Baltimore County championship game victory over Western Tech

Pikesville coach Michael Dukes didn’t want his Pikesville girls basketball team to celebrate a moral victory when they played in the Baltimore County championship game at Towson University’s SECU Arena against Western Tech (17-4) on Tuesday night.

They didn’t get one, but they did get an historic one after the 53-30 triumph.

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When asked when the last Pikesville girls team to win a Baltimore County girls championship, he responded, “I don’t think ever.”

Unlike last year, when the Panthers (20-4) fell behind Catonsville 15-0 in the first quarter, and fell 76-41, this year’s Panther squad rode their own scoreless run to victory, holding the Wolverines scoreless in the third quarter, while scoring 17 straight points.

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That turned a 25-19 lead into an insurmountable 42-19 bulge.

“At halftime, coach said we needed to stop them, even from the beginning, he said we are to win this game on the defensive end,” said junior Tyra Robinson, who finished with 10 points.

“He gave us a speech at halftime and we came out and we were hungry to stop them.”

Western Tech was playing without leading scorer junior Tiffany Manning, who suffered a sprained ankle in the Wolverines’ season-ending 72-30 win over Lansdowne.

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Manning, who went over the 1,000-point career scoring mark in the Wolverines win over Catonsville, was averaging 19 points a game and coach Alan Lagon saw in warm-ups she was unable to play.

“We did a great job of hustling, even though we knew Tiffany wasn’t going to play,” Lagon said. “I thought we responded very well, but you could see offensively, especially in the third quarter, we kind of missed her.”

The Panthers built a 15-8 first-quarter lead because of four straight perimeter field goals off the bench from sophomore Taylor Sawyer.

“I was feeling like I needed to step up and help my team,” said Sawyer, who admitted she was jittery. “I was nervous.”

In the second quarter, sophomore reserve guard Keante Lewis came in and scored four points.

Dukes wasn’t aware of Manning’s absence until gametime, but he let his squad know about their own offensive struggles at halftime.

“We were very fortunate that Taylor Sawyer came out on fire,” Dukes said. “She set the tone for us offensively and at halftime I mentioned out of these 10 (players) how many wanted to win, because we were playing like only a couple wanted to win, but we had the kids that did step up.”

Sawyer fed Kristin Sterling (five points) on the blocks to start the 17-point surge and Robinson’s blocked shot led to her own finish at the other end for a 29-19 lead 64 seconds into the second half.

A basket by Teylah Saunders (10 points) made it 31-19 and prompted a Western Tech time out.

But, the Panthers continued with a press and close-knit defense by Francis Glover on Wolverine point guard Sydney Stokes (team-high (13 points) and highly-touted freshman Destini Ward (10 points) and the Wolverines went 12:07, from late in the first half to 1:47 into the second half, without a field goal.

By the time Ward scored with 6:13 left in fourth quarter, it was 42-21.

“Defense has really been our trademark this year, we really made an effort to hold opponents under 45 points,” said Dukes, who praised the play of junior Glover. “We selected Glover as our defensive player of the year. She worked her way into the starting lineup with her defensive play.”

Pikesville’s interior play in the second half, that included 10 of Charia Roberts’ 12 points, was also a difference.

“They are a really good team,” Western Tech coach Lagon said. “They’ve got big kids, they’ve got strong kids.”

Scoring

Pikesville 53

Chiara Roberts 12, Teylah Saunders 10, Tyra Robinson 10, Taylor Sawyer 8, Kristin Sterling 5, Keante Lewis 4, Francis Glover 4.

Western Tech 30

Sydney Stokes 13, Destini Ward 10, Krys Johnson 2, Ezeka Peace 2, Maya Britton 2, Inaya Billy 1.

Halftime P-25 WT-19

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