With her team trailing at halftime for just the second time this season, Western coach Breezy Bishop didn't need to inspire her team with any motivational speeches.
"I just told them, 'you've seen now that Arundel is a good team. Now let's go out and do what we need to do to win the ballgame," Bishop said.
That included getting the ball into All-American senior forward Chanel Wright's hands as often as possible.
Wright scored 19 of her 24 points and grabbed 11 of her 16 rebounds in the second half to spark the top-ranked Doves to a 51-33 victory over No. 3 Arundel in the Class 4A state championship game at UMBC yesterday.
Western's second straight title capped a 26-0 season and extended the Doves' winning streak to 33.
It also was the final game for Western's four highly touted four-year starters -- Wright, Kimberly Smith, Tesha Tinsley and Danielle Davis.
"I'm very proud of this team," said Bishop, whose team compiled a 94-7 record over the past four seasons. "There is so much sisterhood on this team and the senior leadership was marvelous. I think this is one of the top five teams in the country. With their talent, skills, leadership and chemistry, you couldn't ask for more."
Before Western could celebrate, however, it had to get by the scrappy Wildcats.
Despite having no seniors and this being the school's first trip to the state semifinals, Arundel (25-1) did not seem fazed by Western's reputation.
Arundel junior center Chavonne Hammond blocked three shots in the first five minutes and the Doves appeared tentative on offense.
Western, whose average margin of victory was 39 points before yesterday, made just four of 19 shots from the field in the first quarter and seven of 33 for the half.
Although the Doves out-rebounded Arundel 21-9 (including 10-0 on the offensive boards) in the first half, the Wildcats ended the second quarter on an 11-4 run to take a 19-17 lead at halftime.
Western, ranked ninth nationally by USA Today, began to make its move after Arundel took its last lead, 23-22, on a free throw by Kara Kitchen with 4:39 remaining in the third quarter.
Wright then scored eight in a 12-0 spurt that put Western ahead, 34-23, with 1:23 left in the period.
"I told myself I can't stand still, I need to move to get the ball," Wright said. "We knew we had to play harder."
The Doves, who forced 14 second-half turnovers, opened the fourth quarter with a 14-2 run -- with Wright scoring seven -- to take their biggest lead, 51-27, with 2:05 remaining in the game.
"We kept constant pressure on the ball in the second half. We saw that their ballhandlers couldn't dribble with their left hands and that would cause a lot of turnovers," Bishop said.
"And we felt that if we keep the pressure on them, they wouldn't have good legs in the second half."