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No. 1 Poly girls basketball rolls past Hereford to secure third straight region title

The Hereford girls basketball team stayed close to Poly for most of the first quarter Wednesday night. Then, two things happened that changed everything.

Poly coach Kendall Peace-Able switched to a man-to-man defense that bothered the visiting Bulls constantly, especially in half-court situations, and Cach’e Wilson drilled a shot from just past half-court as the first quarter ended that seemed to awaken the Engineers.

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After a Hereford free throw with 5:01 left in the second quarter, top-ranked Poly went on a 29-point run and scored 42 of the game’s final 45 points en route to a 62-12 victory over the Bulls in the Class 3A North Region I final.

Poly (23-1) won its third straight region title, and the Engineers will host a state quarterfinal game Friday. The opponent will be known Thursday, and a victory would send Poly back to the state final four next week at Towson University.

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Da’Brya Clark led Poly with 15 points, and Dasia Townes added 12, but this game was all about the Engineers defense. Poly played zone for a good part of the first quarter but Peace-Able changed to the swarming man-to-man that Hereford (18-5) had problems handling.

“We thought we’d challenge their ball-handling,” Peace-Able said. “It gave them a different look. It just shows me that we’re ready to list and ready to be locked in.”

Overall, the Engineers forced 25 turnovers, many of them steals as the Bulls just could not get set in their half-court offense. They rarely made it into the lane or found good shots.

Poly kept getting so close to Hereford that the Bulls could not establish what they wanted to do. The Engineers forced 13 turnovers in the second quarter alone as they outscored Hereford 21-3 en route to a 33-9 halftime lead.

“We were here on defense,” Wilson said. “We were very active, and we were a machine today.”

Wilson started everything with an offensive play at the end of the first quarter. Both teams struggled shooting in the opening period, and Poly held a 9-6 lead in the final seconds of the period when it regained possession.

Wilson got the ball, dribbled a few steps and swished a 55-foot shot from beyond half-court. That gave Poly a 12-6 lead and seemed to change the momentum.

The defense then kicked in as Hereford turned it over five times in the first two minutes of the second period, and the Engineers made it 18-6. After Kayla Nieberlein made a free throw for Hereford at that 5:01 marker, the Bulls did not score again until Molly Daw sank a short jumper with 2:39 left in the third quarter.

Poly scored 29 in a row and had made it 49-11 by that point. Overall, Hereford struggled and finished with just four baskets while 10 Poly players scored.

Hereford coach Ellen Fitzkee agreed that Poly’s defense simply was too much on this night. The Bulls just could not figure out how to deal with the Engineers and their constant pressure.

“Their defense was just incredible,” Fitzkee said. “They put the pressure on, and my kids froze a little bit … [but] they played hard the entire game and didn’t give up.”

H — Elliott 3, Daw 2, Nieberlein 6, Orner 1. Totals: 4 3-6 12.

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P — Wilson 5, Gross 5, Henson 3, Clark 15, Ferguson 2, Petty 6, Robinson 8, Massenburg 4. Townes 12, Holiday 2. Totals: 25 5-11 62.

Half: P, 33-9.

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