As St. Frances' No. 6 girls basketball team has ridden the roller coaster of youth this season, the Panthers' inside game has been a consistent force.
Yesterday, the Panthers went to their strength - 6-footers Ma-Khida Hankins and Kandice Green - in the second half to break open a close game and fuel a 62-45 victory over No. 5 Institute of Notre Dame in a battle of East Baltimore neighborhood rivals.
Leading 31-25 at the half of the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference showdown, the host Panthers took off on an 11-2 run to open the third quarter.
Green, a freshman center-forward, scored eight points in the run and 10 in the quarter. Hankins, a sophomore center-forward, also had four points in the quarter as the Panthers boosted their lead to 48-30.
"We played horrible defense in the third quarter," said IND coach Herb Hoelter, "and they hit a lot of shots. They're very physical and we didn't respond to that. We've got to learn to play in those kind of games."
The Indians (11-3 overall, 7-2 conference) faced a trio of 6-footers, including freshman forward Danielle Parker, and had just one 6-footer of their own, Brooks Webster.
Green finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds. Hankins added 15 points and six rebounds, and Parker had 10 points.
"Green and Hankins have been playing well the whole year," said St. Frances coach Jerome Shelton. "They have been consistent at both ends of the floor. I thought we did a good job of getting them the ball and getting them started."
Even with an 18-point lead, Shelton wasn't entirely comfortable going into the fourth quarter knowing that IND's versatile three-time All-Metro guard Chandrea Jones was capable of bringing her team back.
Although the Indians rallied with seven straight points to open the final quarter, the Panthers did a good job on Jones, holding her to four free throws in the run. Then Parker and Hankins hit both ends of one-and-ones to get the Panthers (11-6, 10-2) back on course.
Jones, however, finished with a game-high 22 points to go with eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
Panthers junior guard Maya Newman, the only starter back from last season's A Conference championship squad, said she wasn't surprised that her team held on for the victory.
"We're a young team, but our players are very good, mature and athletic, and have a lot of enthusiasm to win the games. As a whole, we put our chemistry together and play as a team, we're going to be real successful," said Newman, who had 10 points, six rebounds and three assists.