City's pass to weak side seals second straight title

E. Smith's layup upsets No. 2 Western, 45-43

Girls basketball

High Schools

February 24, 2005|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

City forward Ebony Smith is never surprised to be open under the basket. Opponents concentrate on her 6-foot-1 teammate, Ashley Branch, so much that they sometimes forget about the 5-8 Smith.

When Branch drew a crowd of Western defenders in the final minute of last night's Baltimore City girls basketball championship, she spotted Smith all alone. Smith took the pass and hit the game-winning layup as the No. 15 Knights upset No. 2 Western, 45-43, to win their second straight city title.

"Most of the time I'm open," said Smith, "because we rotate our offense and I'm the weak side, but I didn't know Ashley was going to give it to me. I was praying I made it, too."

City coach George Petrides was not surprised to see Smith make the game-winning play.

"I thought she might be the key to this," he said. "Ebony has really picked up her game the last part of the season. She's been getting rebounds for us. She's been getting easy layups."

Smith, who finished with six points and 14 rebounds, made one more critical play, grabbing a defensive board with 26 seconds left. That forced the visiting Doves to foul, but with only two fouls for the half, they needed five more to put a Knight on the line.

City (16-7) moved the ball quickly enough to prevent a foul until 18.4 seconds remained. The Doves (19-4) used up nine more seconds getting to a seventh foul sending Branch to the line.

Branch, who had 11 points and nine rebounds, missed the front end, and Western's Zhondria Benn got the rebound, but two Doves shots in the final three seconds missed the mark.

Although neither team ever settled into its offense in a game with 55 turnovers, the Doves managed just one brief lead, 25-24, midway through the third quarter.

"We didn't recognize our mismatches on the floor, and they capitalized on everything, every mistake we made," said Benn, who finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds.

Last year, the Knights won the first city girls basketball title in school history, but their second proved even sweeter for a senior-laden team, especially when it brought their first win over Western in at least 20 years.

"They already had it in their minds they were going to beat us, so we were not going to lose," said City guard Madea Bailey, who had 11 points. "We were going to come and give it our all. Plus, we're defending champions and in our house."

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