St. Frances coach Jerome Shelton said his 15th-ranked Panthers are a far different team than the one that lost more games than it won each of the past two seasons.
At last night's Greater Baltimore Women's Basketball ninth annual Invitational Mixer at the College of Notre Dame, St. Frances showed 14th-ranked Western just how different.
In winning, 58-52, the Panthers controlled the ball better on offense, played with more intensity on defense, and refused to fold down the stretch despite a huge rally by the Doves.
In the nightcap, top-ranked Mercy easily handled Frederick's St. John's at Prospect Hall, 58-33.
"Last year, we didn't have the mental toughness that we needed to win close games," said Shelton, whose team -- 13-17 last season -- improved to 5-0.
"This year, this team understands what it takes to win in pressure situations. The execution is better, we're making our free throws and doing the little, fundamental things to help us pull close games out."
Leading by 18 late in the third quarter, the Panthers watched Western (1-1) rally to score 26 of the next 34 points and pull even at 49 with 2: 06 left. Latia Few led the Doves with 18 points, with Crystal Falline adding 15.
But the Panthers refused to fold.
Led by sophomore Shannell Watson, who had a game-high 19 points, and freshmen Shanika Wallace (12) and Keyonna Maynard (nine), St. Frances regrouped to score nine of the last 12 points over the final 1: 36 to seal the win.
"I think we felt pressure at the end," said Western's first-year coach, Artie Uhlich. "It was a good effort, and we never gave up, but tonight, St. Frances was the better team."
St. Frances started quickly, running out to an 8-2 lead after Shanika Wallace's layup with 3: 05 left in the first quarter.
Western cut the lead to five, but poor shooting and sloppy ball handling -- 28 turnovers in the game -- cost the Doves, who trailed 25-10 midway through the second quarter.
Despite a 28-19 rebounding advantage in the first half, including 17 offensive boards, the Doves' 19 percent shooting kept them behind by nine at halftime.
Few scored 16 points in the final 9: 30, including four three-pointers, to spark Western's comeback. Tiffany Silver's 15-foot jumper with 2: 06 left made it 49-49, but St. Frances then scored seven straight to pull away.
Mercy dumps St. John's
In the nightcap, top-ranked Mercy had little trouble with St. John's at Prospect Hall, jumping out to a 35-13 lead by halftime and rolling to victory.
Forward Jamie Vogtman led the Magic (5-0) with a game-high 23 points.
"Our defense played phenomenally," said Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion. "We anticipated really well, and we were patient on offense."
The Magic has recorded its five victories by an average margin of 31 points.
Prospect Hall (1-3), struggling mightily since the graduation of All-American Nikki Teasley (North Carolina), never challenged in this one.
"They outplayed us," said Vikings coach Greg Vernoy, whose team had defeated Roland Park by a point and lost to John Carroll by 12 earlier this season. "No excuses -- they're just more of a team than we are. We're just trying to build."
Roslyn Vernoy led Prospect Hall with nine points.
Pub Date: 12/13/97