No. 9 Poly ends Western’s reign in Baltimore City Division I girls’ basketball; Gross and Townes each score 12 (VIDEO HERE!!)

by Donald Daniels

As Poly High began celebrating after winning the Baltimore City Division I championship Saturday evening at Morgan State University, Cache’ Wilson fell to the hardwood at Hill Field House. It wasn’t in celebration as Wilson, who played all 32 minutes, had a leg cramp took nearly 20 minutes to be relieved.

The pain more than worth it for Wilson and the No. 9 Engineers, who ended several seasons of frustrations with a 56-44 victory over eighth-ranked Western.

Sophomores Dasia Townes and Jada Gross each scored 12 points for Poly (20-3 overall), and Janya Lilly added 10. Jasmine Walton finished with a game-high 17 points for Western (17-6).

For the first time since 2015, Poly is city champs. The Cold Spring School is back on top, thanks to a dogged defensive effort and clutch free throw shooting to deny Western a third straight championship.

“It feels great,” Townes said of the championship. “Our mentality was to come in and be aggressive, way more aggressive than we were last time, not let up.”

Poly (18-4) made 26 free throws that helped them take an early lead and keep the Doves at bay. It’s the Engineers’ first victory over their next-door neighbor since the 2015 city title match.

“It really helped,” Gross said of the quality free throw shooting. “In practice, coach makes us run, so when we’re fatigued, she makes us go to the free-throw line and that’s what makes it in-game-like.”

Poly turned up the defensive pressure late in the first quarter, fueling a 7-0 run giving it the lead. The Doves committed three turnovers during the run, and Poly got free throws from Taijah Ridgeway, a Tenea Robinson layup and a Wilson jumper.

Western drew to within two points midway in the third after five straight from Walton, including a 3-pointer. The Engineers converted three straight baskets in the paint, pushing the lead to 31-24. The Doves got to within 35-30 on a turn-around jumper by Walton, but a 6-0 fourth quarter run capped by Ridgeway’s basket off a steal, helped the Engineers pull away.

Last month, Western defeated the Engineers, 60-52, on its Falls Road gym for its sixth straight decision in the series.

Poly coach Kendall Peace-Able never wavered in her confidence about her team.

“They believe in themselves,” Peace-Able said. “I just asked them to have fun, to be young, to be sophomores and juniors and not put a lot of pressure on themselves. The pressure is on the people who have won it.”

Western, looking to complete a third straight perfect run through Division I, stumbled from the start Saturday. Though the Doves made several charges at Poly, they were their own worst enemy, finishing 12-of-31 from the free throw line.

“You can’t turn the ball over 25 times, you can’t miss 19 free throws and expect to win the game and that’s just flat-out facts,” said Doves coach Tasha Townsend. “Poly just came out with more energy and more effort and that’s not coachable.”

Baltimore City Division I girls’ basketball championship

at Morgan State University

No. 9 Poly 56, No. 8 Western 44

Poly – Wilson 5, Gross 12, Lilly 10, Townes 12, Robinson 7, Ridgeway 8, Rice 2. Totals 15 26-38 56.

Western – Hawkins 2, Walton 17, Johnson 7, Pickens 1, Pollard 6, Burden 2, Rideout 9. Totals 15 12-31 44.

Poly 12 13 16 15 – 56

Western 6 13 11 14 – 44