St. Vincent Pallotti and Seton Keough combined to shoot 27 percent from the floor, but the visiting Panthers survived a 39-32 defensive struggle, thanks to relentless pressure and the interior shot-blocking of junior Beverly Ogunrinde.
Ogunrinde altered several shots and blocked six, including one with 62 seconds remaining to preserve a 35-30 lead.
“I just help, but I there is something about me when I know when to block the shot, so I just blocked it,” said Ogunrinde, who added 14 rebounds.
Nine players scored for the Panthers (9-7, 3-3 league), led by sophomore Lea Whitehead (8 points) and juniors Kaiya Coleman (7) and Daijah Johnson (6).
Chanel Sparks (5), the lone senior on the roster, juniors Drew Arnett (4), Ogunrinde (3), Io Chaney, Alexandra Eldridge and Lexi Nolan (2 each) also scored.
“On our team, we play everybody,” Pratt said. “Everybody gets an opportunity and we’ve just got to find a combination down the stretch.”
The defensive combination definitely worked in the fourth quarter against Seton Keough because they held the home squad to just one field goal and six free throws.
“We have to play together and have the will to win and today was one of the first times I’ve seen our kids just know they had that will,” said Pratt, who noted they have had leads in about six games previously and lost them all down the stretch. “Things weren’t going well at times today, but we stuck it out defensively.”
Chaney led the Panthers with four steals.
Seton Keough (7-7, 4-4) was playing its first game since losing leading scorer and point guard Stixz Wilson (14 points per game, 6 assists per game) to a concussion two days earlier in a loss to McDonogh.
Ogunrinde knew Wilson was sidelined in the fourth quarter of the 44-32 loss before the Panthers got to Caton Ave.
“It would have been better if she was in the game, but a ‘W’ is a ‘W’ and we were the better team today,” Ogunrinde said.
Early in the season, the Gators were the better team when they defeated the Panthers 59-36 at Pallotti and Wilson connected on 14 free throws.
“It’s a huge difference in their team without her,” Pratt said.
Seton Keough dealt with the same concussion issue last season, but they began that season without Wilson.
“Last year, we had other people that played point guard from the beginning and now we are trying to create one,” Seton Keough coach Jody Powell said. “That’s really not the position you want to be without for the second half of the season.”
Against Pallotti, the Gators committed 21 turnovers and shot just 21 percent from the floor and 50 percent from the foul line.
“The biggest issue tonight was our turnovers and missed free throws,” Powell said.
The Gator offense was led by Karli Zeps (12 points, 8 rebounds) and Jade Porter (12 points, 7 rebounds) and Hollie Booker (12 rebounds) had a strong game on the boards.