Western defeats Centennial, 40-35, to return to final

March 12, 2010|By Katherine Dunn | katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

Western's basketball team was just a little too quick for Centennial in Thursday night's state Class 3A girls basketball semifinal.

The No. 7 Doves pressed their way to a 40-35 victory at UMBC's RAC Arena after the No. 15 Eagles clawed back from a 12-0 opening deficit.

"We wanted to play an up-tempo style of game and see if they could" handle the press, Doves coach Tiffany Silver said. "Once we realized they had a little trouble with it, we wanted to stay with it."

The press forced many of Centennial's 38 turnovers and that, combined with the early deficit, proved too much for the Eagles (17-6) to overcome, especially when Doves guard Amirah Tucker hit a pair of 3-pointers to spark a 12-4 run that put Western up 38-29 with 2:51 to play.

"We dug ourselves that hole," Centennial coach Rob Slopek said, "and I think the experience showed in that first quarter. We panicked a little bit against that pressure. We had great opportunities offensively, we just couldn't finish."

On Saturday, the Doves (18-6) will go after their first state championship since 1995 when they meet Seneca Valley (26-0) for the title at 8 p.m. at UMBC. Western set a record for most state tournament appearances with 14 and they are in the final for the seventh time.

On Thursday night, the Eagles rallied back to take their only lead of the game, 25-24, when Julia Benjamin converted a 3-point play with 1:55 left in the third quarter. The Eagles then turned the ball over on seven straight possessions and 11 of their next 12.

Tucker converted two of those turnovers into 3-pointers and boosted the Doves' lead to 34-27 with 5:43 left.

In the second half, the Tucker sisters, Amirah and Jannah, combined for 18 points and Amirah hit three 3-pointers. That offense was complemented by a defense that forced so many turnovers that the Eagles managed just one shot through a seven-minute span that extended halfway into the fourth quarter as they fell eight points back with 4:33 to go.

Seneca Valley 69, Largo 65: Virginia-bound guard Kelsey Wolfe had 32 points and seven assists as the Eagles continued the first unbeaten season in school history and reached the title game for the first time.

Ranked No. 4 by The Washington Post, the Eagles held off a late rally as the Lions (22-4) were within one after Cierra Johnson's 3-pointer with 37 seconds to go. Wolfe answered with a pair of free throws. and Audrey Cunningham and Sasha Orr sealed it with three more.

W - Craig 3, Spence 1, A.Tucker 9, Alston 2, J.Tucker 11, Stevenson 3, Ward 2, McKnight 9. Totals : 16 3-12 40.

C - Pino 8, Klima 4, Alston 3, Benjamin 8, Kelly 2, Miller 10. Totals: 13 6-9 35. Half: W, 18-13.

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