Long Reach’s offense got the better of Poly’s defense at the moment it counted in the Class 3A girls basketball state semifinal Thursday night.
Lyric Swann’s four-point play with 1:06 left in the game sealed the No. 7 Lightning’s trip to the state final with a 66-61 victory over No. 6 Poly at Towson University’s SECU Arena. In their first appearance in the state tournament, the Lightning pulled through in a game that featured 12 ties and 23 lead changes — seven of them in the fourth quarter.
Swann, the Lightning’s leading scorer, hit her fifth 3-pointer and got up off the ground to make the free throw for the 66-61 lead that would hold up. Her shot came right after the Lighting’s top inside threat, Arianna Briggs-Hall, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds, fouled out of the game.
With 2:46 left, Poly took a 61-60 lead on Cache’ Wilson’s basket, but the Engineers (21-5) would not score again. Kiana Williams hit Briggs-Hall for a layup before Swann finished it off.
“I felt like I was hitting some shots so once I saw that I was open, I looked for my shot and I made it,” Swann said. “Everyone was getting me pumped up and then I looked up at the scoreboard and I realized how big of a shot it was and I was just happy.”
The Lightning (21-2) advance to meet defending champion Frederick (25-2) for the title Saturday at 8 p.m. at SECU Arena.
“We only have two more hours until tomorrow, but we are going to enjoy this one for tonight,” Long Reach coach Kelli Cofield said. “Frederick is a great team … defending state champs. We are going to enjoy this, watch as much film as we can, but at this point we’ve been playing since November and we’re going to do what we do, they are going to do what they do. Let’s see what happens on Saturday.”
Poly’s defense hounded the Lightning the entire game, but the co-Howard County champions kept coming at the Baltimore City champions. They took 16 3-point shots and hit six.
Their backcourt duo led the way as Swann scored 20 points and Williams added 17 along with five assists.
Williams, a senior headed to Bethune-Cookman, and Swann, a junior committed to UMBC, have both scored more than 1,000 points in their careers. Williams scored a career-high 40 in a regular-season route of Atholton. Swann, who averages 19.2 points, hits 37 percent from 3-point range. She hit five of nine from beyond the arc Thursday night.
Poly, which had been aiming for its first state title, struggled on the offensive end, hitting just 26 of 73 shots, although they hit eight of 10 free throws. Junior Brashae Rice led the Engineers with 19 points while Wilson added 11 and Jada Gross 10.
The Engineers’ biggest lead was six at the half, but the Lightning turned that around with a 9-0 run early in the third quarter. Poly took the lead back at 44-42 on Rice’s 18-footer, but Long Reach emerged from a back-and-forth finish to the quarter with a 50-49 lead on Williams’ free throw.
The game was tied six times in the first half, lastly at 26. Gross’ jump shot tied it, but that was the beginning of a 9-3 run for the Engineers. The Lightning managed just three free throws after that and did hit a field goal in the final 3:10 of the half.
The Engineers outrebounded Long Reach, 28-15, in the first half, including 17 on the defensive end which helped generate some of their offense. Gross hit a couple of shots on the break after teammates’ rebounds. Tenea Robinson scored off a turnover to finish the half and give Poly a 35-29 lead.
Poly made it to the state semifinals for the sixth time in seven years with a young team. The Engineers had three seniors but none started.
“I thoroughly enjoyed working with the group of young ladies I worked with this season,” Poly coach Kendall Peace-Able said at the postgame news conference. “I think that we have a lot of promise. I think they have the right energy and the right heart so that you all will see them again.”
7 Long Reach 66, 6 Poly 61
LR — Williams 17, Thompson 6, L.Swann 20, J.Swann 5, Briggs-Hall 18. Totals 23 14-28 66.
P — Wilson 11, Gross 10, Eaddy 2, Lilly 4, Ridgeway 3, Rice 19, Robinson 2, Townes 8, Jones 2. Totals 26 8-10 61. Half: P, 35-29.