Poly coach Charlie Sullivan and Northwestern coach Lillian Brown have both remarked about their teams' lack of competition in Baltimore City.
They helped to remedy that situation yesterday by pitting their teams against each other, and neither coach was unsatisfied.
Previously unbeaten Northwestern pushed No. 11 Poly to the limit before the host Engineers prevailed, 53-50, in a matchup of the top two teams in the Baltimore City West League.
With the victory, Poly (9-2, 3-0) claimed sole possession of first place in the division.
The Engineers, who were led by 6-foot senior center Lindsay Willemain (21 points, 12 rebounds), built a nine-point lead late in the second quarter, but they couldn't shake the pesky Wildcats (7-1, 4-1).
"Northwestern has been the toughest competition in our division the last couple of years," Sullivan said. "I just wish we had more games like this."
Trailing 50-48 with 1:24 remaining, Northwestern turned the ball over inbounding it and Kendall Peace converted the turnover into a fast-break layup to extend Poly's lead to 52-48 with :34 left.
After another Northwestern turnover, Jawai Maith made one of two free throws with :17 left to seal the victory for the Engineers.
Willemain was limited to just two points and three rebounds after halftime. Northwestern tightened its defense on her in the second half, and she sat out much of the half with four fouls.
"We weren't passing the ball as much in the second half, we were dribbling a little bit too much, and we took more outside shots because they started to sag on me," Willemain said.
The Wildcats had pulled to 46-42 after three quarters behind Katina Hurt (16 points), Keisha Todd (16 points) and Nicole Eades (12 points on four three-pointers).
Todd's fast-break basket off a steal by Hurt :21 into the fourth quarter reduced Poly's lead to 46-44.
Then both teams began commiting one turnover after another.
Northwestern failed to score on its next seven possessions, but it didn't lose any ground because the Engineers were having even more difficulty. The Wildcats finally tied the game at 46 with 5:08 left on a transition basket by Hurt.
Poly went scoreless for 7:23 before Willemain scored on a follow shot with 3:18 left to give the Engineers a 48-46 lead.