Coppin Academy’s girls basketball team got off to a good start in their first appearance in the state semifinals Friday night, but everything changed pretty quickly.
The Golden Eagles got a six-point jump on Largo in the first quarter before the Lions came roaring back to take a 15-point lead at the half and go on to win 66-39 at Towson University’s SECU Arena. The Lions (19-8) will return Saturday for the 6 pm. state final against Southern of Garrett County, a winner over No. 12 Pikesville in the other semifinal.
Coppin Academy, a public charter school on the campus of Coppin State University in Baltimore City, had not been in the Maryland state playoff system until this season and they had some strong showings during the season, falling only to No. 8 John Carroll, 75-68, and to two out-of-town teams. The Eagles (21-4) cruised through the Class 1A East region by an average of 25.3 points.
“Our goal was set out in August, preseason conditioning and I told them our goal was to get to the final four,” Coppin coach Ulysses Hardy said, “and at that time, it’s the four best teams and let the chips fall where they fall. We pushed them hard and they stayed loyal and committed starting in August. … We had a good preparation. We had a good week this week. My freshmen grew up. The upperclassmen did what they needed to do to help them throughout the season and I’m 100 percent proud of them, but I really believe this has just opened up the door for where we’re going to be in the future.”
Hardy, also the athletic director at Coppin Academy, said the Eagles accomplished more than just one goal by getting to the state tournament so quickly.
“I think we got our name out there and that was my goal as a coach and athletic director,” said Hardy, whose team played an independent schedule around the area the past few years. “I think our program has taken another leap and that’s the plan basically, to take our program each year to another level.”
Largo, however, played a much tougher schedule in Prince George’s County with their losses to some of the better teams in the Washington area. The Lions also rolled through the South region, topping their opponents by an average of 30.5 points.
On Friday night, the Eagles struggled against Largo’s pressure defense and the Lions’ experience showed with a mostly upperclass team. Coppin Academy had mostly freshmen and sophomores on the court. The Eagles had 22 turnovers and Largo converted them into 29 points.
While the Eagles are new to the state tournament, the Lions are in the tournament for the 12th time and have won three state titles, most recently in 2016. They fell to New Town in last year’s Class 2A title game before dropping to 1A this school year.
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Coppin’s Tanae’ Galloway fed freshman forward Nyshae Weaver to open the second half, but the Eagles couldn’t get anything more going. The Lions answered with 10 straight points, led 50-24 at the end of three quarters and pushed the lead to 35 midway through the fourth quarter.
Largo’s Sasha Francis led all scorers with 20 points while Weaver led the Eagles with 15 points and 18 rebounds. Kayla Henderson added 10 points for Coppin.