In Wednesday night’s showdown for the No. 1 girls basketball ranking, No. 2 McDonogh took off on an early 17-point run that rattled top-ranked Poly and sparked the Eagles to a 62-39 victory.

Makaela Quimby’s 3-pointer from the top gave the host Eagles a 7-5 lead with 2 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first quarter and by the time Paris Locke fed Autumn Fleary for a layup midway through the second quarter, the lead climbed to 21-5. The Engineers never recovered and their 18-game win streak came to an end.

One of the marquee games of the season — the defending IAAM A Conference champion Eagles (20-2 overall) vs. the defending state Class 3A champion Engineers (19-2) — proved an intense, physical battle from the start although Poly struggled offensively, rushing shots and hitting just 15 of 42 attempts from the floor. They did not score for more than seven minutes during McDonogh’s initial surge.

“The intensity going into today’s game was that we were No. 2 to them, because we lost to them in the fall league,” said senior guard Quimby, “and we kept that in the back of our minds and we worked really hard. Poly’s a good team. We watched a lot of film to prepare for this game and we slowed down and got into our rhythm. I think everyone did great today.”

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Freshman point guard Fleary said this was one of the Eagles best games of the season.

“I think this was a game where we definitely defined that we’re the No. 1 team in this area,” she said. “That’s a great team and this was a highly-anticipated game and I really think we just pulled through. We didn’t let the hype get to us, all the talk and everything like that, and we stuck together as a team.”

Quimby, a long-range sharpshooter, hit four 3-pointers and finished with 18 points while Fleary had 20 points and four steals. Junior 6-foot-4 post Kennedy Umeh got in early foul trouble and scored all but two of her 14 points in the second half.

In the early run, Quimby and Fleary did most of the damage. During a 23-second spurt, Quimby nailed a 3-pointer before Fleary snatched back-to-back steals and converted them into a layup and a 20-footer. That gave McDonogh a 15-5 lead after one quarter and left Poly shocked.

“I think that was the kick start to the rest of the game,” said Quimby, whose early 3-pointers forced Poly to loosen its defense, opening up more options for the Eagles offense.

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McDonogh kept the early momentum rolling into the second quarter. Quick around the basket especially with junior guards Locke and Ava McKennie and senior forward Anaiah Jenkins, the Eagles contested almost every Poly shot in the game and the trio combined for 23 rebounds.

In the second quarter, the Engineers missed their first five shots before McDonogh freshman guard Ari Benjamin scored twice. Fleary’s layup made it 21-5 with 4:41 to go before halftime. Poly’s scoring drought finally ended with junior guard Mickelle Lowry’s 3-pointer, but the Engineers never got closer than within 11 the rest of the game.

“I think they have that fight inside them this year,” McDonogh coach Brad Rees said of his players. “This is a big game for us obviously, big crowd here at home and they sensed that it was time to kind of do something. Every time we play them it’s physical, aggressive… That’s the way they play and that’s why we like to play them especially this time of year.”

The Engineers have beaten five ranked teams this winter, including No. 4 St. Vincent Pallotti and No. 6 Mercy, but the teamwork that led to those wins disappeared Wednesday as McDonogh built its lead.

“Selfish. That’s the answer to it,” Poly coach Kendall Peace-Able said. “Selfish basketball. No team basketball. They needed [the loss]. That’s exactly what they needed… You don’t learn a whole lot when you win. Sometimes you’ve got to learn some things from a loss.”

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Senior guard Da’Brya Clark led Poly with 14 points, but no one else scored more than seven. Junior guard Ariana Makumi played a strong second half and finished with seven points, Poly’s last seven of the game.

Both teams have one league game remaining before moving into the playoffs.

The Eagles host Roland Park Country Friday night in the regular-season finale. The IAAM A Conference tournament starts for the Eagles with Tuesday’s semifinals.

The Engineers also play their final regular-season game at home, hosting Douglass Tuesday. They will play for the Baltimore City championship the following week. Regional playoffs begin Feb. 24.

NO. 2 MCDONOGH 62, NO. 1 POLY 39

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Poly 5 10 12 12 — 39

McDonogh 15 13 20 14 — 62

Poly — Taylor Addison 7, Da’Brya Clark 14, Brianna Johnson 5, Trinity Massenburg 2, Mickelle Lowry 3, Riley Holliday 1, Ariana Makumi 7. Totals: 15 4-11 39.

McDonogh — Autumn Fleary 20, Ari Benjamin 4, Paris Locke 3, Anaiah Jenkins 3, Makaela Quimby 18, Kennedy Umeh 14. Totals: 20 13-24 62.

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