Western's Tenicia Spence stood on the perimeter, urging her team to stay focused as it clung to a one-point lead against Poly in Wednesday night's Baltimore City Division I girls basketball championship at Baltimore City Community College.
Spence had shot her team back into the game, and emotions were high as the eighth-ranked Doves inched closer to avenging a loss on their homecoming to the No. 7 Engineers. Spence finished with 24 points, and Western pulled away with a 45-37 victory in front of an energized overflow crowd. The teams could meet again in the Class 3A North regional final.
"Revenge," Spence said. "We came out strong. The defense was good in the first quarter. We really got it together in the second half. We slowed the ball down very well."
Poly led, 21-17, at the half, but Western scored the first nine points of the second half to take its first lead since the opening minutes. Spence led the way with 10 consecutive points, and the Doves held Poly scoreless for four minutes.
The Engineers then settled down and retook the lead, 33-31, on a pair of free throws by Crockett in the closing seconds of the third quarter. The Doves, however, continued to attack, and Spence gave them a one-point lead with 4:05 left in the game on a short jumper.
A 3-pointer by Kelli Smoot increased the lead to six, but Poly's Blair Harding answered with a 3 on the other end with a minute left. The Doves, however, sealed the game by making free throws in the closing seconds.
"I'm very proud, but it was one of those games where you hate to see a team lose," Western coach Tiffany Silver said. "We wanted it because we lost that first meeting. The girls really showed that."
The Engineers opened a 15-10 early in the second quarter on a put-back by Kori Dean. Western later cut the margin to one on a 3-pointer by Maiya Gibson with two minutes left in the half.
Southwestern 66, Southside 29: Shamera O'Neal scored 10 of her 20 points in the first quarter, and the Sabers never trailed in winning their first league title.
Lakeisha Taylor added 24 points and Chakir Sydnor had 12 for Southwestern (14-3), which jumped out to a 29-6 lead at the half. Myrea Carroll led Southside (10-5) with 15 points. The Jaguars committed 11 turnovers and were held scoreless in the second quarter, but finished strong with 14 points in the final period.
"It's the first time we've had this many great girls basketball players assembled," Southwestern coach Joe Kennedy said. "They're fighting me to try and get in. We average 60 points a game, but we preach defense."