No. 4 Poly rolls Chopticon, back into 3A state girls basketball Final Four; Rice scores 14

Poly’s Brashae Rice looks for a piece of netting to cut during the traditional net cutting ceremony following Saturday’s Class 3A South Region girls basketball final. The No. 4 Engineers defeated Chopticon to advance to the 3A state Final Four, Thursday at Towson University’s SECU Arena.

by John Niswander

Special to VSN

Poly High girls basketball team didn’t want Chopticon to feel at ease at any point of Saturday’s Class 3A South Region championship game. In the end, Chopticon’s nearly four-hour long roundtrip bus ride was the only comfortable experience.

The fourth-ranked Engineers handed the southern Maryland squad, 59-34, for another trip to the state Final Four. Brashae Rice finished with a team-high 14 points and Janiya Lilly added 12 for Poly (22-4 overall).

Trailing early, the Baltimore City champions went on a 24-5 run en route to its seventh trip in eight season to the state tournament. The Engineers will meet No. 19 Aberdeen, which defeated Towson in the North Region final Saturday, in a state 3A semifinal Thursday evening at Towson University’s SECU Arena.

Poly is again on the cusp of its elusive first state championship, employing a relentless press defense that produced 26 turnovers.

“We just wanted to clog up the court a little bit,” Poly coach Kendall Peace-Able said. “We wanted them to make decisions by throwing several different looks at them with our pressure.”

The Engineers trailed 9-6 in the first quarter, but ended the frame on a 12-1 run and never trailed again.  Poly pushed its advantage to 16 points at 30-14 with just under a minute left in the first half before Chopticon coach Joe Cook called a timeout.

“[Poly] is so good. They are so quick and have long arms,”  Cook said. “We couldn’t beat their press, that was the bottom line. We couldn’t get through it and they surely took advantage of it.”

The Braves (18-7) struggles continued in the third quarter as Poly opened the frame with a 15-3, extending its advantage to 45-17.

“When we sped up their game, they don’t do as well,” Rice said. “We got in their heads.”

Now, comes the biggest mental albatross for Poly, which lost state title games in 2016 (Glenelg; 3A), 2013 (North Point; 4A) and Mount Hebron (2006; 2A). The Engineers lost to Long Reach in last year’s 3A semifinals.

“This job isn’t finished,” said Peace-Able.

Class 3A South Region championship

No. 4 Poly 59, Chopticon 34

Chopticon – C. Thomas 14, Wolfe 7, White 5, S. Thomas 4, Burch 2, Mann 2. Totals 13 4-19 34.

Poly – Rice 14, Lilly 12, Wilson 9, Robinson 8, Towns 6, Ferguson 4,  Fullwood 2, Gross 2, Jones 2. Totals 20 17-27 59.

Chopticon 10 4 3 17 – 34

Poly 18 12 15 14 – 59