No. 2 Aberdeen High advanced to the Class 3A North Region girls’ basketball title game, holding off Poly, 58-54, in a semifinal in Harford County Thursday evening.
Poly’s Jasmine Smith hit two free throws to secure a 54-54 tie, but Aberdeen (22-1 overall) was not about to see overtime. A three-pass play to the inside found Aberdeen’s Bri Jones under the basket for a 56-54 lead change with 16 seconds left.
Seconds later, Ayana Stewart picked off an Engineer inbound and dished the ball to teammate Nia Alleyne, who picked up the foul and final two free throws in the win.
“We knew when we came out that we had to pay smart defense,” Aberdeen coach Stacy Liles said. “They have good guards and were going to attack the basket.
“We started out in our man-to-man half court, but, unfortunately, we turned over the ball the entire game, which caused them to come back and forth.”
Thursday’s regional semifinal saw six lead-changes, with the Eagles claiming leads after each quarter and, most importantly, the fourth and final quarter.
Poly worked back from an early eight-point deficit in the first quarter to trail the Eagles by just one at the half, by two after the third quarter and just two points with 13 seconds left in the game, much to the efforts of Blair Harting and Teira Pendelton. The trio kept crashing the lanes, each putting up 11 points for the Engineers.
“We had to box out, move our feet and keep them in front of us so they couldn’t get to the lane,” said Jones, who led the Eagles in blocks, rebounds and scoring, with seven, 17 and 22, respectively.
Jimmia McClucksey was also among the highest scoring member for Aberdeen, hitting five from the field and a perfect three-for-three from the line in her 13-point performance, while Alleyne finished her eight-point game with two clutch free-throws to seal the Eagle win.
“I’m just thinking I have to make these,” Alleyne said of her final two shots. “I have confidence in my free throws, so I wasn’t really that worried.”
Alleyne also sank three three-pointers in Thursday’s game, including two in the first quarter to help the Eagles to a 16-9 lead.
“We just like to shoot it when we are open, pass it down if it isn’t open, but if you have it, shoot it,” Alleyne said.
Poly held the lead three times in the game, never out-pacing Aberdeen by more than a point. Jazzmine Smith netted 10 points for the Engineers.
Aberdeen will play at Hereford Saturday, with the winner advancing to the RAC Arena at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, March 10, for the state semifinals.
“We just have to work on keeping our composure,” Stiles said. “When we are up, we have to work the cock and make sure we aren’t reaching and fouling.”
Aberdeen 58, Poly 54
AB 16 9 16 17 — 58
Poly 9 15 15 15 — 54