The last time St. Frances was at Goucher College, which was in March, it celebrated a second straight Catholic League Tournament title, which assured the Panthers their first No. 1 ranking.
St. Frances returned last night for its first area game this season, and the No. 1 Panthers picked up where they left off, beating Germantown Academy of Philadelphia, 75-54, in the Towson Catholic Tip-Off Mixer.
Senior swingman Mark Karcher led all scorers with 23 points for St. Frances (4-0), including 19 in the first half. Kevin Smith, Shawn Hampton and Charles Beaufort each added 10.
In other tourney games, No. 4 Calvert Hall (2-0) beat Good Counsel, 56-49, and No. 19 Towson Catholic (1-0) edged Abington Friends of Philadelphia, 53-47.
St. Frances, ranked No. 9 in the nation by USA Today, has won 19 consecutive games, last losing to Paterson Catholic of New Jersey in the finals of the McDonald Classic in Erie, Pa., last season.
Win No. 19 was well in hand after three minutes as the Panthers built an early 13-1 lead and led by no fewer than 11 points -- and as many as 23 -- throughout.
With a comfortable margin, Panthers coach William Wells used a lot of players but wasn't overly impressed with the results.
"I tried to play everybody early, but [Germantown] got back into the game," he said. "The next time, I'm going to play to win, not to please everybody."
The Panthers, who opened with three wins at the St. Matthews Mixer in Toronto two weekends ago, built leads of 19-7 after the first quarter and 43-27 at halftime.
"We played well at the beginning," said Karcher, last season's Player of the Year. "We stacked a little in the third and fourth quarters, instead of really putting them away."
Towson Catholic wins
The backcourt played a major role for Towson Catholic and Calvert Hall in their wins.
The host, No. 19 Owls opened their season with a 53-47 defeat of Abington Friends of Philadelphia.
Towson Catholic was without sophomore point guard Lafonte Johnson, an honorable All-City/County selection last season. Johnson, 5 feet 7, didn't play because of "a school-related matter," said Owls coach Mike Daniel.
Damian Hocker, one of only two Towson Catholic seniors, broke a 43-43 tie with 1: 27 remaining in the game on a layup with an assist from Todd Sykes.
Dominic Fulcher came up with a steal on the other end for the Owls, resulting in a layup by Keith Jennifer for a four-point cushion with 1: 07 left. Jennifer, a 6-foot-1 freshman, scored nine points, all in the second half.
"It was sloppy at times, but we did what we had to do to win," said Daniel, whose team plays Bullis Prep at 7 tonight. "We have sophomores in major positions. We're still very, very young, and it's going to take time."
Johnson's absence was seriously felt midway in the fourth quarter. Towson Catholic was leading, 43-37, but turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions, allowing Abington Friends tie the game at 43 on a Lamar Plummer rebound and follow shot.
Junior guard Deone Carter led Towson Catholic (1-0) with 10 points. Jonathan Laviner led Abington Friends with a game-high 20 points and Plummer added 12.
Calvert Hall game
Juan Dixon and Aaron Herbert combined for 43 points, leading the No. 4 Calvert Hall Cardinals to a 56-49 victory over Good Counsel in the day's opening game.
Dixon (game-high 26 points) and Herbert (17 points), who some say are the area's back backcourt duo, combined to score 15 of the Cardinals' 17 fourth-quarter points to hold off a rally by Good Counsel.
Good Counsel was within 42-38 with 5: 54 remaining in the game when Herbert hit a jumper, which was followed by two scores by Dixon, including a steal and a dunk, putting the Cardinals ahead, 48-38, with 4: 06 left.
"We played well on offense and showed a lot of patience," said Dixon, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard who signed with Maryland last month. "Everybody played well and stepped up when needed."
Good Counsel was within 29-28 with 4: 07 left in the third quarter when Herbert got a miss by Dixon and put it back up. Moments later, Eric Wills of Good Counsel was called for an offensive foul.
The Cardinals scored the next eight points, capped by a layup by Antoine Peoples on a steal by Delbert Randall to build a 39-28 advantage with 1: 58 remaining in the third period.
"I was concerned with our half-court defense when the season NTC started, but we're getting better," said Calvert Hall coach Mark Amatucci, whose team defeated No. 15 Severn on Tuesday. "Our guard-play is the key, and when our younger kids become familiar, we'll be tough."
The Cardinals face Central of Prince George's County, last season's Class 2A state champions and the No. 9-ranked team in the Washington, D.C., area, at 5: 30 p.m. today.
Two other games today conclude the tournament: Good Counsel vs. Germantown Academy (Pa.), 3: 30; and St. Frances vs. LaSalle (N.Y.), 9.
Pub Date: 12/07/96