Western paints path to final

Doves' front line of Benn, Matthews too much for Gwynn Park

Western 64 Gwynn Park 50

Girls basketball Class 3A


The state girls basketball semifinal between No. 4 Western and Gwynn Park featured the Doves' inside power vs. their opponent's perimeter game. Chalk this one up to inner strength.

The 6-foot-2 senior duo of Zhondria Benn and Nikki Matthews combined for 39 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Doves past the Yellow Jackets, 64-50, last night at UMBC's RAC Arena.

The Doves (25-1) are headed to the state title game for the first time since 1999. Tomorrow at 8 p.m. at RAC Arena, they will meet No. 8 River Hill, a 54-44 winner over Urbana last night.

Last night, the Doves scored 36 points in the paint - 24 in the second half when they took the lead for good. Almost all of them came from Benn and Matthews.

"Those big kids, what can you say? They just overpowered our team," said Gwynn Park coach Marvin Vann, whose team hit five three-pointers.

Going into the game, the Doves planned to exploit their height advantage against an athletic Yellow Jackets team whose tallest starter was 5-10 and whose inside players were sophomores.

"It was the game plan for us to go inside," said Benn, who finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds. "We knew they had quick guards, and they didn't really have the size to match up with us inside. It was basic - rehearse in practice and me and Nicole knew what we had to do. We made a pact."

Early on, the Yellow Jackets (22-4) used their outside shooting to stay with the Doves. Western began to break away with a 12-6 run spanning halftime. Benn's follow shot at the buzzer sparked a quick start to the second half, but Gwynn Park took a 37-36 lead on Lakiah Hyson's short jumper with 1:24 left in the quarter.

The Doves answered with five straight points to end the quarter. That momentum carried over as the Doves went inside for every point in building a 51-38 lead with 5:29 left. Despite 12 points from Hyson, who finished with 31, the Yellow Jackets could not keep pace.

In the third quarter, Western coach Tiffany Silver told the Doves to pick up their scoring.

"I let them know that we did not need to trade [baskets] with them. ... We needed to score, stop, score, stop and in the fourth quarter we played more of our game," said the first-year coach who played on Western's last state title team in 1995.


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