Through much of her coaching career, Poly's Kendall Peace-Able has excelled at building balanced teams that overachieve.
With no dominant scorer and a roster built largely on sophomores, the Engineers won the Baltimore City Division I championship and reached the Class 3A state semifinals — pulling off upsets on their way to both.
The city league featured only a couple of challenging opponents this winter, so Peace-Able scheduled top nonconference programs. The No. 7 Engineers (21-5) defeated No. 13 Mount de Sales and gave No. 2 McDonogh a scare before falling, 58-54. They also stuck with National Christian until late in a 51-42 loss.
In the regional playoffs, they rallied from 11 points down with three minutes left to beat Oxon Hill, one of the favorites for the state title, 49-43, on the road. In the state semifinal, the Engineers hung with more experienced No. 6 Long Reach before yielding a four-point play with about a minute left that all but sealed a 66-61 Lightning victory.
Their win over archrival City in the opening round of the regional playoffs gave Peace-Able, who played for the Engineers, her 300th career victory.
She fosters a team-oriented approach and stresses building relationships on and off the court. Often starting four sophomores, the Engineers realized from the start they could only win if they played a strong team game with a swarming pressure defense that would create much of their offense.
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"I think they really valued working for each other," Peace-Able said. "There was nobody worried about working for themselves. Everybody wanted it just as equally for the person next to them as they wanted it for themselves."
The Engineers started the season at No. 15 and climbed as high as No. 6 before the loss to Long Reach. After falling to Western, 60-52, during the regular season, they got revenge in the city championship, beating the No. 9 Doves, 56-44, for their fourth title in six years.
Peace-Able, who has a 302-80 career record in 15 years, has taken the Engineers to the state semifinals five times since 2012.
Also Coach of the Year in 2012, she credited her assistant coaches Tee Robinson and Blair Harding, both former Poly players, and Toby Henson, as well as senior Kaya Stokes for her leadership off the court.