Lightning outlast No. 7 Poly for trip to Class 3A state girls’ basketball final; C. Milton Wright succumbs to champ Frederick (VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS HERE!)

by Donald Daniels
A season of firsts continued for Long Reach High girls’ basketball Thursday night.
In their first state final four, the sixth-ranked Lightning edged out No. 7 Poly, 66-61, in a Class 3A state girls’ basketball semifinal at SECU Arena. The Howard County squad will play defending state champ Frederick for the crown Saturday night at Towson University.
The Cadets ended No. 20 C. Milton Wright’s run with a 54-37 decision in the first 3A final four contest. After a slow start, Frederick (25-2 overall) went on a massive second quarter run, extending their winning streak to 22.
It was the Mustangs’ first state final four appearance since 1996.
“We played strong all season, we got better with each game and did some really great things,” C. Milton Wright coach Becky Dutko said. “For a lot of players their main sport isn’t basketball so it just gives credit to what they have done all season.”
Sydney Frank lead the Mustangs (24-3) with 11 points and five rebounds while Sydney Bukowski had 10 points, five rebounds and three blocks in the loss. MaKayla Daniels, an University of Arkansas commit, had a game-high 15 points and Jalynn Montgomery added 14 for the Cadets.
The Mustangs didn’t show nerves, going on a 11-0 run for an early 13-4 start. Frederick quickly answered with a 26-4 run as Frederick claimed a 32-18 halftime advantage.
“They [Frederick] just wore on us,” Dutko said. “They have a lot of talented players and we just keep up with them.”
The Cadets slammed the door with a 9-0 run of their own to finally put away the pesky Mustangs.
“Every team who is state semi-finals got here for a reason, they have been working hard just like us to get to this point, so when they [C. Milton Wright] went on the run, we weren’t surprised because we didn’t expect them to just lay down,” Frederick coach Ashley Bush said.
“Having gotten this far I very happy, it has been so long since our school made it to states and I am just proud of well we did all season,” Bukowski said.
“We worked so hard to get here, no one really believed in us and I just proud of how well we did,” Prather said.
Long Reach is 32 minutes away from a first state title after taking down Poly in a Top 10 match of league champs that did not disappoint. There was 23 lead changes and 12 ties as Lyric Swann’s four-point play late in regulation was the tipping point for the Columbia school.
“This has been a great season thus far and we are still going,” Long Reach coach Kelli Cofield. said. “Everything up to this point has been so great because we made history, to getting to be co-county champs, regional champs and now a state finalist is just a testament to what the girls have done this season, but prior seasons.”
“When I got the ball, I felt as though that I was hitting some shots and once I saw that I was open and took the shot and I made it,” Lyric Swann said. “I was so happy and then I looked at the score and I saw how big it was since at that time Poly need more points to back in it.”
Lyric Swann had a game-high 20 points, Kiana Williams had 17 points and five assists for the Lighting. Poly was led by Brashae Rice who had a team-high 19 points and Jada Gross scored 10.
With 2 minutes and 30 seconds left in the game Poly (21-5) took a point lead when Cach’e Wilson (11 points and 10 rebounds) drove into the lane and hit a runner. On the next Lighting possession Long Reach forward Arianna Briggs-Hall, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds, hauled in a rebound off a missed an shot and scored on the putback to give the Lighting the lead once again.
After an Engineer turnover, the Lighting fed the ball inside to Briggs-Hall, but she called for an offensive foul (her fifth of the game) and had to leave the game with two minutes remaining in the game.
With a key part of their post presence gone, it seemed that all of the momentum has swung in Poly’s favor, but the Engineers couldn’t capitalize and turned ball over the once more. Long Reach worked the ball around the stout pressure defense of the Engineers and was able to find Lyric Swann on the left side of the court behind the three-point a few feet in front of the Lighting bench.
Lyric Swann drilled the trifecta and was fouled. She went on to make the free throw, pushing the Long Reach’s advantage to five points, matching their largest advantage. Poly was unable to get a quality shot in the final minute and gave the ball back to Long Reach on errand pass.
The Lightning was able to hold possession for the final seconds and set the Long Reach faithful into a frenzy. Long Reach built a 11-6 advantage in the first quarter, and neither team held a lead larger than three points in the second quarter.
Poly went on a 6-1 run to claim a 35-29 halftime advantage. Trailing 38-33, Long Reach found some openings in Poly’s defense, going on a 9-0 run to regain the lead.
“Their [Poly] defense was something to adjust to,” Williams said. “We brought a girl to the middle of the press and we were able to break a down a little bit.”
It was heartache for Poly, which has yet to win a state title in eight trips to the state final four.
“We have the right heart and the right energy and you will see us again,” Poly coach Kendall Peace-Able said.
Long Reach, which won its first region championship last weekend, will  get a shot at first state championship Saturday.
“Frederick is a great team, they have been here before, we both have been playing since November, they do what they do, we do what we do and we will see what happens on Saturday,” Cofield said.
Class 3A state girls’ basketball semifinals
at Towson University
No. 6 Long Reach 66, No. 7 Poly 61   
Long Reach          16            13            21            16            66
Poly                          15            20            14            12            61
Long Reach: Williams 17, Thompson 6, L. Swann 20, J. Swann 5, Briggs-Hall 18. Totals 23. 14-28. 66
Poly: Wilson 11, Gross 10, Eaddy 2, Lilly 4, Ridgeway 3, Rice 19, Robinson 2, Townes 8, Jones 2. Totals: 26. 8-10. 61
Frederick 54, No. 20 C. Milton Wright 37
Frederick     6 26  7 15 – 54
C. Milton Wright 13 5 15 4 – 37
Frederick: Linthicum 9, Goines 5, Rininger 2, Daniels 15, Bubakar 9, Montgomery 14. Totals 23. 5-8. 54
C. Milton Wright: Bukowski 10, Marchetti 6, Snyder 5, Hoover 5, Franks 11. Totals: 15. 5-12. 37