BALTIMORE — In the waning seconds of Saturday’s Class 4A state championship game, the North Point Nation student section, the band and the many fans who made the trip from Charles County could sense that history would be made by the Eagles girls basketball team.
When the buzzer sounded, it was official.
North Point claimed its first-ever state title with a 62-56 victory over 4A North Region champion Baltimore Polytechnic Institute at the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s RAC Arena.
North Point not only capped off a perfect season at 27-0 overall, just like its 2010-11 state champion boys team, but it became the first girls team in Charles County to win a state crown in 26 years, since La Plata accomplished the feat.
It was also the first Southern Maryland Athletic Conference girls team to win state gold at the largest classification.
“The girls earned it. Now they can say that they finished as the best team in the state,” North Point head coach Michael Serpone said. “It’s been a journey; all the hard work has paid off. I think this is the best North Point girls team ever in the history of the program. To finish 27-0 was a huge accomplishment.”
After taking a 32-17 halftime lead, it looked like three-time 4A East Region champion North Point would cruise to the title. It extended the lead to 20 points in the middle stages of the third quarter.
But Poly was not done. It surged to a 23-6 run, erasing the 20-point deficit to trail just 47-44 on a layup by junior forward Tiera Pendleton (game-high 25 points) with 4 minutes 26 seconds remaining in the final period. Pendleton scored 15 points in the second half to keep Poly in the game late, forcing North Point into 29 total turnovers, 16 in the second half. The Eagles forced Poly into 21 turnovers in the contest.
“We tried our hardest,” said a teary-eyed Pendleton. “We came back, we just couldn’t finish it out. They were bigger than us, but size doesn’t matter; we played with heart and laid it all on the line.”
With the game tight, the Eagles responded with an 11-0 run to give them the 14-point lead with 1:15 left. Poly again would answer with 12-4 run, but time ran out.
“We went to our 1-2-1-1 press, our bread and butter, and [Poly] struggled with that,” said Serpone, whose team gutted out a 57-55 overtime win in the state semifinal two days prior versus Eleanor Roosevelt of Prince George’s County. “Their press turned into layups for us. Poly fought the whole game and battled, but we settled down. We like to make things interesting; they like to give me a small heart attack before I turn 31.”
Senior guard Chalise Greenwood provided a huge spark during the run when she knocked down a three-pointer with 2:41 left to give North Point a 10-point lead.
“This was my last year, so I wanted to end it right with my team, and we did,” said Greenwood, who finished with 11 points and had the team’s only three. “It was tough the last two years, but we were ready this time and came out on top.”
Before the Greenwood three, senior guard Tasia Butler, a Syracuse University commit, had a bucket and nailed two free throws, finishing with a team-high 24 points and seven rebounds to cap off a special career. She will be joining her older sister Tiara, a 2010 North Point graduate, at Syracuse next season.
“Today, I can’t thank my team enough; I’m so excited right now, I finally got a ring,” said Butler, who finished 10 for 15 from the free-throw line, 67 percent. “We turned it on late in the game and did what we needed to do. I can honestly say I love this team; we made it to the top.”
Juniors KanDeon Niravanh and Khaila Prather contributed with nine and seven points, respectively.
When Prather was told she had 16 rebounds to hold down the paint for the Eagles, she couldn’t believe it.
“I had that many rebounds,” Prather said with a smile. “I just wanted to be a threat down low like I have all season and help this team win. I’m glad we won it all.”
The Eagles shot 27 for 46 (59 percent) from the free-throw line, while Poly was 11 for 21 (52 percent).
“I have a great group of fighters,” Poly head coach Kendall Peace-Able said. “North Point just wanted it a little bit more than we did.”