Poly girls basketball coach Kendall Peace-Able will be the first to admit her talented squad can sometimes be prone to offensive funks.
She also knows the Engineers are talented enough to find their way out of them.
Despite making just one of 16 shots in the third quarter, and watching a nine-point lead dwindle to one, No. 5 Poly regained command of Thursday night’s Baltimore City Division I championship game through sheer athleticism. Time and again, the Engineers drove to the basket, drew fouls and converted at the free-throw line, surviving a pair of late misses by No. 8 Western to emerge with a 55-54 win at Morgan State.
“I just think that sometimes we overthink things,” Peace-Able said. “My kids, once the lightbulb comes on, they really realize just how talented they are.”
Senior Janya Lilly scored a game-high 18 points, including 14 in the second half, when she made 10 of 11 at the free-throw line. She helped her team hit 15 of its first 16 free throws of the second half, and outscore Western 23-16 at the line for the game.
“[It was] free throws, that’s it,” Lilly said. “We practice free throws 24-7 at practice, and today free throws were the ballgame.”
Forward Dasia Townes (11 points) and guard Jada Gross (10) also played major roles for the Engineers (17-4), who won their second straight city title, and third in five years. The other two in that span belonged to Western (19-4), with Thursday marking the fifth straight year the next-door rivals met in the finals.
This one came down to the wire.
Poly scored the game’s first nine points and led 45-38 early in the fourth quarter before Western made its final surge.
Led by 6-foot sophomore Vashae Rideout (17 points) and 5-5 freshman Nyceara Pryor (15), the Doves rallied by beating Poly at its own game.
“Every time they drove, they were getting fouled, so we started doing the same thing,” Western coach Tasha Townsend said. “I told the girls to leave it all out there, and that’s what they did. We left it all out there.”
With the game tied at 53 late, the Engineers took the lead when Townes hit a pair of free throws with 27.9 seconds left. Then, after Pryor had a layup attempt rim out, the Doves regained possession and got within a point when Destiny Hawkins made one of two from the line.
The game appeared to be over when referees whistled Western for a travel on the rebound, but then huddled and changed their call to a jump ball, giving the Doves one last chance with three seconds left.
In the end, however, Sanaya Gray’s short jumper at the buzzer was too strong, and the game ended.
“I don’t know that I’ve had too many of these,” Peace-Able said. “That’s just what the season is all about. It’s about those 22 games trying to get who you’re supposed to be by those last six games.”
W — Hawkins 9, Rideout 17, Fisher 2, Gray 2, Pryor 15, Burden 1, Mills 2, Johnson 6. Totals: 20 16-26 54
P — Wilson 6, Gross 10, Ridgeway 2, Ferguson 1, Lilly 18, Rice 7, Townes 11. Totals: 14 23-31 55.
Half: Poly, 30-23.