Poly scored four seconds into Friday night’s girls basketball game at Forest Park, raced to a 20-point halftime lead and seemed in control. The Foresters then made things interesting in the second half.
They stepped up their defensive pressure and slowed the visiting Engineers on offense for much of the final two quarters. Still, Dasia Townes made two key baskets in the fourth quarter and finished with a game-high 17 points as No. 1 Poly held off No. 13 Forest Park 53-42.
Poly (19-1) appeared to have no worries after it rolled to a 33-13 halftime lead. But Forest Park (15-3) chipped away and cut the lead to six in the fourth quarter before the Engineers scored seven of the game’s final nine points.
“We didn’t go out of control [just] because they caught up,” Townes said. “We just kept maintaining our energy, and we just didn’t stop."
Dorthea Banks of Forest Park made a 3-pointer that cut the Poly lead to 46-40 with 3 minutes, 30 seconds left. That was the closest the Foresters had been since the game’s first two minutes.
Townes, headed for VCU to play college ball, then made the difference. She hit a jumper 18 seconds later. Before the Banks 3, Josias Mickens also had hit a 3 also but Townes then made a short jumper. Those two baskets gave Poly a 48-40 lead with 3:12 left, and Forest Park could not answer.
Poly coach Kendall Peace-Able liked the poise her team showed when the Foresters cut a 20-point lead to six but thought this experience, especially since it came on the road in a loud gym, could be valuable in the days and weeks ahead.
“That’s what they needed,” she said. “They got a little gut punch. I kept saying ‘the state playoffs are going to be like [this].' We needed the sound. We needed the ambience.”
Tenea Robinson added 13 points for Poly, most on tough shots in traffic.
There was not much sound early because Poly dominated at both ends of the court. The Foresters turned the ball over 17 times in the first two quarters and seemed unable to figure out the Engineers’ defense, which hounded them in many ways and kept forcing turnovers.
Poly kept getting in the faces of Forest Park players, often double-teamed them and forced trouble. The Foresters made only four first-half baskets before everything changed.
But Forest Park (15-3) turned up the heat on defense in the second half. The Foresters pressured the ball more, held Poly to just four third-quarter baskets and cut the lead to 11 heading into the final period.
The Engineers were forced into several third-quarter turnovers and looked much different than the first half. Plus, Neah Henry (team-high 15 points) helped Forest Park by muscling her way inside and repeatedly finding shots.
Forest Park coach Jermaine Dunn was thrilled with how his team played on defense in the second half. He didn’t push the defensive pressure until then, holding off because the Foresters don’t have as long of a bench, but the move certainly worked.
“We’re a defensive team,” Dunn said. “We had to spread them out in the second half because of their size. We fought hard ... but Poly is a tough team.”
P - Gross 4, Clark 2, Ferguson 9, Petty 6, Akinniyi 2, Robinson 13, Townes 17. Totals: 19 13-23 53.
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F - Mickens 6, Billie 2, Banks 4, McCray 2, Pierce 2, D. Jones 9, Henry 15, Cavalcanti de Paz 2. Totals: 15 9-17 42. Half: P, 33-13.