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Previewing Baltimore-area teams in the MPSSAA girls basketball state semifinals

All games at Towson University’s SECU Arena

Thursday

CLASS 4A

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NO. 2 HOWARD (24-0) vs. NO. 4 WESTERN (19-4)

Time: 3 p.m.

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Outlook: Howard is looking to complete a perfect season to gain its first state title since 1994 — the only one in school history. The Lions have been led on offense by senior guards Anii Harris (14.4 ppg) and Marisa Sanchez-Henry (10.5, 3.8 apg). Sophomore Gabby Scott has added help (9.6, 7.2 rpg) at forward as the guard-heavy Howard team has run over most of its opponents. But Western will provide a big test. The Doves, who gave top-ranked Poly a fight in the recent Baltimore City title game (losing by four), also pack plenty of offensive punch. Sophomore guards Ny’Ceara Pryor (16.5 ppg) and Gabrielle Johnson (13 ppg) lead a bunch of younger players who can score and play defense. Senior guard/forward Mya Henson averages a double double (15 ppg, 10 rpg).

CLASS 3A

NO. 1 POLY (24-1) vs. ROCKVILLE (16-7)

Time: 9 p.m.

Outlook: Poly is a balanced team that can hurt opponents at both ends of the floor. The Engineers, looking for a first first state title in their 10th final four appearance, are led by senior guards Dasia Townes (10.3 ppg), Jada Gross (10.1) and Cach’e Wilson (8.0) plus others such as Ajae Petty, who provides a force inside. Poly held Towson, Hereford and River Hill to a total of 50 points in three playoff games last week, shutting down those offenses with swarming defense. The Engineers rarely let any of those teams get inside or find a good look at the basket in three impressive performances. This is the first trip to the state final four for Rockville since 1987, the year the Rams won their only state crown. Two sophomores, Nia Newman (14.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Naila Newman (12.4 ppg), should pace the Rockville offense.

Kendall Peace-Able, Poly girls basketball head coach, signals to players during the Class 3A North Region Section 1 final against Hereford. March 4, 2020.
Kendall Peace-Able, Poly girls basketball head coach, signals to players during the Class 3A North Region Section 1 final against Hereford. March 4, 2020. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

Friday

CLASS 2A

No. 12 PIKESVILLE (22-4) vs. WESTLAKE (16-10)

Time: 3 p.m.

Outlook: Pikesville won the Class 1A state championship last year, the first in school history, and now the Panthers are trying to repeat the feat at the next level. The Panthers are balanced on offense and defense and have gotten stronger after playing a brutal early schedule. Senior Charia Roberts (17 ppg, 12 rpg), junior guard/forward Kristin Sterling (16, 12) and senior guard Tyra Robinson (11.5 ppg) give the Panthers solid scoring threats along with tough defense. The defense has been strong and will provide Westlake with a test. Westlake has made seven appearances in the state semifinals but never gotten to the finals. Senior center Leah Johnson (10.8) is the top scorer.

No. 13 FOREST PARK (20-3) vs. MIDDLETOWN (22-1)

Time: 5 p.m.

Outlook: The Foresters are looking for the first state title in their third trip to the final four. They made it in 2015 and 2016 and have a balanced attack plus strong defense. Junior forward Neah Henry (16.1 ppg and 9.0 ppg) and senior point guard Josias Mickens (9.3 ppg, 5.2 apg) are big parts of the offense, and Forest Park has four players overall averaging in double figures. Mickens also had 112 steals through the regionals as the Foresters can turn defense into offense quickly. But Middletown has played well this season. The Knights are led by 6-foot-2 junior guard Saylor Poffenbarger, already committed to UConn. She averages 21 ppg plus five assists — and also has 50 blocks. They haven’t lost since their season opener (versus Frederick).

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CLASS 1A

No. 15 COPPIN ACADEMY (19-4) vs. CMIT-NORTH (24-1)

Time: 7 p.m.

Outlook: This is Coppin’s third straight trip to the state final four but the Eagles are trying to make their first championship game. They’ve got lots of offensive punch, led by senior guard Kayla Henderson (24.2 ppg, 7.5 apg). She’s the leading scorer in school history while junior forward Nyshae Weaver (21.5 ppg, 14 rpg) and classmate Aniya Hills (center, 13.5 ppg, 17.5 rpg) help control the inside as the Eagles are averaging 48.5 rebounds per game. The Eagles will have a tough task against CMIT-North, which is averaging 76 points per game and has won 19 straight. Sophomore guard Zanai Barnett-Gay leads the offense (28.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 5.9 apg) and has a team-high 141 steals.

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