Western rallies but can't catch Paint Branch, loses, 51-42

Class 3A girls basketball

High Schools

March 12, 2004|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Once No. 5 Western fell behind Paint Branch by 12 points early, the Doves spent the rest of the time playing a game of catch-up - a game that fell short in last night's state Class 3A girls basketball semifinal at UMBC's RAC Arena.

Although the Doves (23-4) rallied to within three points with 1:25 to go, they could not hold off the Panthers from Montgomery County. Amy Dodd, a 6-foot-2 center, sealed a 51-42 victory for Paint Branch on a three-point play with 28.9 seconds left.

The Doves rallied from 43-29 down to within 45-42 when Bethany Sloat fed Zhondria Benn for a layup. But the Panthers answered with a six-point finishing run.

Tonya Handy started the Panthers final spurt with a follow shot before Dodd added a free throw and then her three-point play.

"We were way too late," said Western coach Donchez Graham. "We didn't manage the game too well. In stretches, we were playing too far away from them. We over-respected them. They're a good team, but we allowed them to play their game."

The Panthers (25-1) will face two-time defending champ Gwynn Park, from Prince George's County, for the crown at 8 p.m. tomorrow at UMBC. The Yellow Jackets (25-2) defeated Charles County's Westlake, 56-38, in last night's other Class 3A semifinal.

After falling behind 14-2 at the outset, the Doves cut the Panthers lead under eight three times, but each time, they missed key opportunities to pull even.

Early in the third quarter, the Doves pulled within 28-25 but then turned the ball over four times in the next two minutes.

That made it easier for the Panthers, who never trailed, to come away with the victory over the Doves, who were back in the state tournament after a two-year absence.

It also did not help the Doves to have top guard Ebony Dennis on the bench for much of the second quarter with two fouls. Dennis, who finished with 12 points, provided spark on offense and defense against the well-rounded Panthers.

Guard Ashley Alexander, who scored 20, and Dodd, who had 21 points, gave the Panthers an exceptional inside-outside offense.

W-Woods 9, Dennis 12, Benn 12, Cunningham 5, Hicks 2, Peace 2. Totals 17 5-10 42. PB-Alexander 18, Jones 7, Dodd 18, Davis 2. Totals 19 3-6 51. Half: PB, 28-22.

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