Something about the third-ranked Seton Keough Gators brings out the worst in St. Frances.
Namely, it's called defense, defense, defense.
The No. 12-ranked Panthers went to Seton Keough yesterday averaging 62 points a game but left on the short end of a 54-33 score.
The win was the seventh straight for the Gators (18-4 overall, 10-1 league), who edged ahead of St. Mary's atop the Catholic League, though they are tied in the loss column. The No. 2-ranked Saints were upset, 58-57, by John Carroll Tuesday.
Yesterday's game was the second time this season Seton Keough has shut down the Panthers' prolific offense. The Gators did it Dec. 16, too, winning 59-38.
"Their defense is very good," said St. Frances coach Jerome Shelton. "They didn't let us run our plays."
That's becoming a habit for the Gators, who have allowed an average of 31 points in their past six games and often break their huddles with the exclamation, "Defense."
For one who preaches the cliche that defense wins championships, yesterday's performance was something to be excited about for Seton Keough coach Jim Stromberg.
"Our defense played well," he said. His team used trapping half-court defense to hold St. Frances to 6-for-25 shooting in the first half. "I thought we executed very well today and kept them from getting a lot of open shots," he said. "I was very pleased with our effort."
The Gators executed on the offensive end, as well, using crisp, half-court passing to find open players consistently.
Led by 6-footers Itxaso Mallaviabarrena, who scored a game-high 14 points, and Sarah Walsh (13), they hit seven of their first 11 shots and shot 44 percent for the game. Junior Denise King, who had scored 23 on Monday against Roland Park, had eight this time.
The young Panthers (13-6, 3-5), who started three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior, never led and never contended.
Seton Keough ran to an 9-0 lead before the Panthers scored their first basket on Shanell Watson's 10-footer with 2: 39 left in the first quarter.
Watson, with 11 points, led the Panthers in scoring and was the only one in double figures.
The Gators scored 18 of the game's first 24 points, leading 18-6 after 10 minutes and by 28-13 at halftime.
In the second half, their lead ballooned to as many as 26 points before the Panthers put together a 10-2 run late in the fourth quarter.
St. Frances got a scare with 2: 16 left to play, when talented sophomore forward Latonya Blue went down hard after being fouled from behind on a fast break.
She remained on the floor for several minutes holding her right leg and had to be carried to the bench, but later walked away, apparently the victim of a cramp, Shelton said.
Pub Date: 2/04/99