For three quarters Monday night, top-ranked McDonogh showed why it's a solid favorite to win the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference title.
And for the final quarter, No. 5 St. Frances showed why it can't yet be counted out.
The host Eagles dominated most of the way, building an 18-point lead and threatening to turn the game into a rout. However, the Panthers stormed back, getting to within four in the final minute before McDonogh held on for a 47-41 win.
"We wanted to try to get them to do things that they didn't want to do, and I thought we were pretty successful at that," McDonogh coach Brad Rees said. "We had a chance to really open it up there a few times, but we just couldn't do it."
The win puts McDonogh (14-1, 6-0) in control in the A Conference, with a rematch against second place Roland Park set for Wednesday. The Eagles, who beat the Reds by seven last month, are in the midst of a brutal stretch, with nine games in 14 days.
"I just hope we have some gas in the tank for Wednesday, at this point," Rees said.
Led by forward Brianna Jacobs (12 points) and guards Maya Wynn and Danielle Edwards (10 points each), McDonogh took command, building an early 13-5 lead that ballooned to 39-21 by late in the third quarter. Time and again, the Eagles throttled the aggressive Panthers on the defensive end, holding them to 7-for-37 shooting and forcing 21 turnovers through three quarters.
"Our game plan was really to just keep playing our basketball, because they can kind of get a little out of control," Jacobs said. "Coach was just assuring us, 'Keep playing your basketball. Don't get caught up in all the talking.' [The key] was just to keep our composure, keep playing hard and not get out of sync."
The game seemed all but over. Then St. Frances (10-5, 5-2) came to life.
During a nearly eight-minute stretch, the Panthers, who at one point had gone 8:55 without a field goal, outscored the Eagles 20-6. Guard Tyeisha Smith (14 points) led the charge with nine points during the stretch.
When guard Pere Alexander sank a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left, St. Frances had cut the lead to 45-41.
But that was as close as the Panthers would get. McDonogh, which still had a foul to give, kept the lead in the final seconds by holding the ball, then sealed it with a pair of free throws by Wynn with 10 seconds left.
St. Frances may have been in a position to win if not for its foul shooting. The Panthers made just 10 of their 25 attempts from the line.
"The turnovers and missed free throws were just big downers for us in a game like this," St. Frances coach Jerome Shelton said. "When it gets down to it, we could've controlled our destiny a lot better. But I give credit to [McDonogh]. They made plays down the stretch too, and we didn't answer."