St. Frances coach Jerome Shelton kept starting and stopping when trying to explain what happened in the closing minutes of last night's game at the Institute of Notre Dame.
Finally, several minutes after No. 2 St. Frances hung on for a 57-56 victory over No. 5 IND, Shelton waxed philosophic to describe the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference game.
"One is a million when you win," Shelton said with a slight smile.
St. Frances (19-3, 15-2), which took over first place in the A Conference Y Division with Sunday's win over Roland Park, shut down the Indians' offense throughout the game. The Panthers repeatedly double-teamed, trapped and chased the ball, forcing 28 turnovers and pulling away to a 57-42 lead with 3:03 remaining.
But IND (16-6, 12-5) stepped up its own defensive pressure to force four turnovers and score the final 14 points. Denita Hall twice missed the front end of one-and-ones in the final 9.1 seconds, but the St. Frances guard came up with two key offensive rebounds to help run out the clock.
"We made some questionable basketball decisions that got us in trouble," Shelton said. "We were fortunate to get out of here with a win."
Much of the game wound up as a duel between IND's Chandrea Jones and St. Frances' Angel McCoughtry, who both had double doubles.
Jones is the metro area's leading scorer and got nine of her game-high 32 points during the final run. She also added 13 rebounds and six steals.
"We never gave up, that's the thing," Jones said. "It was exciting to come that close."
McCoughtry scored a team-high 23 points and added 14 rebounds and seven steals.
"Our defense was big ... it helped us get fast breaks and easy points," McCoughtry said. "I thought we relaxed a little bit at [the end]. Maybe we took it for granted."
The St. Frances defense helped the Panthers take command midway through the game. They forced 15 turnovers in the second quarter and began finding high-percentage shots. The Panthers used an 11-point run to take a 32-18 lead early in the third quarter.
McCoughtry and Camille Coleman (nine points) combined on several second-half plays that helped St. Frances stay in front by double figures. But the Panthers had their own turnover problems, committing 19 that let IND stay in the game.
The Indians had 18 of their 41 rebounds in the first quarter, but the turnover problems proved too much.
"We didn't react well to the [St. Frances] pressure," IND coach Herb Hoelter said. "We panicked a little bit, but that's part of being a young team."