WALDORF – Poly High guard Da’Brya Clark said the third quarter has been a struggle for her team this season.
“All throughout the season we haven’t been really strong in the third quarter,” Clark said in the postgame press conference following her team’s Class 3A semifinal against Oxon Hill at North Point. “We knew, especially in the playoffs, we needed to capitalize in the third quarter.”
Trailing at half, Poly put together a dominant eight minutes, sending the No. 3 Engineers to a 53-24 victory and a chance at a second straight 3A championship. The Baltimore City champs will rematch with fifth-ranked Howard, Friday evening at 6 at the University of Maryland.
The Howard County champ Lions dominated Charles County’s St. Charles, 67-31, in the second 3A state Final Four rematch.
Trailing 18-16 at the half, Poly (25-2 overall) delivered in the third quarter, outscoring the Clippers, 22-6, in the frame to take control. The Engineers scored the first 13 ponts of the second half, turning the 2-point deficit into a 29-18 lead.
The Northwest Baltimore school shutout Oxon Hill in the fourth quarter, earning its sixth state final berth in its 12th trip to the state semfinals.
“The finishing, that was our main problem,” said George Mason-bound senior Trinity Massenburg, who scored nine of her team-high 13 points in the third. “We shot too many layups and we were missing. The message to the bigs was to take our time and fully face up to the basket.”
Poly coach Kendall Peace-Able thought maybe the lengthy bus ride might have contributed to a slow start for her team, but she emphasized to her group the opportunity they had to write their own story and the squad authored a second half none will likely forget.
“This is the longest ride we’ve had this season,” said Peace-Able. “I think that played a big part in it. Getting off the bus and having to play after being in the bus for two hours is a lot.”
Ten different Engineers scored in the game, with Clark (10 points), who will play for Norfolk State University joining Massenburg in double figures.
Madison Williams paced Oxon Hill (22-4) with 13 points.
“We felt good in the locker room with a two-point lead,” Oxon Hill coach Devone Williams said.
“I have to give credit to Poly for just turning up the pressure.
“Experience means a lot. I thought Poly used their experience against us and turned up the pressure in the third and fourth quarters. They stymied us and slowed us down.”
Howard went on a 22-0 run, spanning from late in the oepning quarter until the latter stages of the second to gain its second straight 3A final. Meghan Yarnevich led all scorers with 22 points for the Lions (25-1), while Gabby Kennerly added 20 and Samiyah Nasir chipped in another 11.
“I was really impressed with the defensive effort,” Howard coach Scott Robinson. “They have some girls who can really shoot the ball. We got on them, pressured them and took them out of the game.”
“I don’t even have the words to express how I feel right now,” Kennerly said. “I’m just very proud of everyone. We have one more game and that’s what we’re focusing on now.”
Kennerly, a Mount St. Mary’s recruit, cited the strength of this year’s schedule as something that helped the Lions prepare for the postseason.
“This year I think we definitely had a tougher schedule,” Kennerly said, citing close wins against Buena Vista (Calif.) and No. 5 Mercy, as well as the team’s only loss to No. 4 St. Vincent Pallotti. “I think that helped us get to this point, so we can be prepared for the adversity we’re going to face.”
A year ago, Poly comfortably dispatched Howard, 60-37, in the 3A final at Xfinity Center.
The Lions feel they’re in a better place heading into a match most area girls basketball followers penciled in at the start of the season.
“Last year we didn’t really know what we’re getting into,” Lions senior Jenna Veter said. “This year going into it it’s a whole different perspective. We get to play them again. We get another chance.”
“I think all the girls have a lot of respect for Poly,” Robinson added. “They’re a great team. Not only the talent, but Kendall is a great coach. I think all of them look forward to the opportunity and feel we can do better than we did last year, but at the same time we have a lot of respect for that program.”
CLASS 3A STATE SEMIFINALS
at North Point
NO. 3 POLY 52, OXON HILL 24
Poly 8 8 22 15 - 53
Oxon HIll 4 14 6 0 - 24
Poly - Massenburg 13, Clark 10, Georges 6, Lowry 5, Miller 5, Addison 4, Makumi 4, Johnson 2, Overton 2, Pope 2
Oxon Hill - Williams 13, Coleman 5, Worthy 5, Onunkwo 1
NO. 5 HOWARD 67, ST. CHARLES 31
St. Charles 7 3 5 16 - 31
Howard 13 25 23 6 - 67
St. Charles - M. Johnson 9, Taylor 8, Thomas 6, J. Johnson 4, Forbes 3, Johnson-Reeves 1
Howard - Yarnevich 22, Kennerly 20, Nasir 11, Veter 8, Danilel 4, Nanni 2