With a young team and not much depth, McDonogh's girls basketball team can struggle in the most physical games, so it's a good thing their free-throw shooting was on the mark Friday night against St. Frances.
The No. 3 Eagles hit 35 free throws to make the difference in a 61-52 win over No. 7 St. Frances that keeps them solidly in second place in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference.
The defending conference champion Eagles (9-5) improved to 5-1 in the conference and trail only No. 1 Archbishop Spalding (16-0, 8-0), whom they host Friday night for a rematch of the Cavaliers' 51-32 win last month. Every other team has at least three conference losses.
McDonogh passed a tough test Friday night against the visiting Panthers (9-7, 4-3), who rallied from as many as 12 points down to tie at 30 midway through the third quarter. They were within 54-52 with 13.6 seconds left, but the Eagles polished off the game with seven free throws.
Danielle Edwards led the Eagles with 32 points, 20 from the free-throw line. She and St. Frances' Tyshell King combined to shoot 40 free throws — Edwards went 20-for-23, King was 14-for-17 — while their teams took a total of 81.
"We knew that they were going to be physical," said Edwards, a sophomore point guard and All-Metro second-team pick last winter. "We emphasized their pressure at practice, because they play tremendous pressure at all times, so there's no time to rest. I'm just happy we followed through, took what we did at practice, put it out on the court. I was really proud of my team."
Edwards scored 10 points in the first quarter to help coach Brad Rees' Eagles to an 18-6 lead, but the Panthers soon rallied, especially after senior guard King, who struggled in the first quarter, came off the bench two minutes into the second.
King, who finished with 30 points, then scored 19 of the next 22 points for the Panthers. Her runner with 5:48 left in the third quarter tied the game at 30.
The Eagles then boosted their lead back to six after Edwards and Brianna Jacobs scored four points each in an 8-2 run. The final 2:40 of the quarter looked like free-throw practice as Edwards and King each converted a three-point play, but the other 13 points came from the line.
McDonogh entered the final quarter with a 47-42 edge, but the Panthers whittled it down, pulling within 52-50 on a 6-0 run that included four free throws from King and Adre'onia Coleman's short jumper. The teams traded baskets one more time before the Eagles finished off the game at the line.
The Eagles defense forced three turnovers in the final 2:20, including two steals by Maya Wynn.
"We had some costly turnovers and I think our shot selection could have been a little bit better," said Panthers coach Jerome Shelton, who also has a young team. "Those things that hurt us, hurt us against Spalding (64-54 loss Wednesday). We just have to play a lot smarter basketball at the end. That's what's getting us right now."
SF—King 30, Coleman 8, Alexander 6, Bell 2, Hedgepeth 1, Madden 5. Totals 13 26-32 52.
M—Robinson 3, Edwards 32, Jacobs 12, Wynn 4, Logan 6, Johnson 4. Totals 12 35-49 61. Half: M, 28-24