No. 4 St. Frances knew exactly who to go to in a tight game Thursday night against St. Maria Goretti. Senior forward Dwayne Morgan has responded much of the season.
Coming out of a timeout with the Panthers up three and 2 minutes, 15 seconds left, Morgan took position deep in the post, got an entry pass, faked and then shot over Goretti standout Martin Geben. It banked off the backboard and in, the statement basket that would help St. Frances secure a 52-44 win over the Gaels.
Morgan had a game-high 27 points — 17 in the second half — as the Panthers improved to 13-3 overall and 3-0 in the Baltimore Catholic League. Goretti (13-3) fell for the first time in league play and is 4-1.
"We knew it was snowy day and we didn't have a crowd, so we knew we had to be the aggressor and set the tone," Morgan said. "We needed a bucket, and we set the play up and it was there."
With St. Frances trailing 22-20 at the half, Morgan told coach Nick Myles he could make the difference in the second half.
He converted a three-point play to give the Panthers the lead for good at 26-25 with 4:45 to play in the third quarter and followed that with a 3-pointer and another jumper while the Panthers defense took two charges at the other end to help build a 31-25 lead.
After Goretti's Toby Christensen made a 3-pointer and was fouled, completing a four-point play with 3:23 left in the fourth quarter, the Gaels had cut the lead to 43-40.
Then the Panthers took over. Morgan scored five points in the closing minutes, with Daquan Bracey hitting two free throws and Will Robinson adding a short jumper to close out the win.
Geben, last year's BCL Player of the Year, finished with a team-high 16 points for the Gaels, but scored just five in the second half.
Defense and poor shooting dominated the first half. The visiting Gaels, who took a 22-20 lead at the break, missed their first seven shots from the field — Morgan blocking the last two — but the Panthers weren't able to build a sizable lead.
When Khalil Richards pulled up in the lane for a short jumper with 2:07 to play in the first quarter, St. Frances had an 8-2 lead. But the Panthers went more than five minutes before making their next basket, enabling Goretti to build a 22-15 lead late in the first half, with Geben accounting for 11 points and the visitors making eight of 10 free-throw attempts.
St. Frances scored the last five points with Morgan scoring four of his 10 first-half points to cut the Gaels' lead to two at intermission.