Towson Catholic center Tracy Johns was almost speechless last night after the Owls' girls basketball rematch with St. Frances.
The Owls had just broken open a tie game, scoring 10 of the last 11 points in the final 2 1/2 minutes to beat St. Frances for the second time in eight days. Their 56-47 victory put a little more shine on their newly-minted No. 1 ranking.
"It's better than great," said Johns. "It's more than words can say. I'm so proud of my team."
In a game that neither team led by more than six points until the final 16 seconds, the host Owls stayed poised on offense and intense on defense down the stretch and hit key free throws in the last two minutes.
St. Frances All-Metro forward Mi-Khida Hankins tied the game at 46 on a 10-foot baseline jumper with 2:31 to go, but the Panthers would miss their last four shots and hit just one free throw after that.
With 2:11 to go, Brianna Wise fed Tyler Hale for a layup to give the Owls the lead for good. The Owls went 4-for-4 from the free- throw line in the final two minutes with Johns and Candice Walker hitting two each.
The No. 2 Panthers, who have won the last three Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference crowns, struggled from the free-throw line all night, missing 16 of 28 - 10 of them in the first half. The Owls weren't much better early but hit 10 of 12 in the fourth quarter.
Johns, who had six points and 13 rebounds, said one of the key ingredients in the win was teamwork. Although the Owls got 21 points from stellar guard Marah Strickland, she did not score in the fourth quarter.
St. Frances coach Jerome Shelton rotated defenders on Strickland, who can deftly maneuver a 20-foot jumper or a powerful drive, but the rest of the Owls picked up the slack. Guard India Jones had 13 points.
The Owls (20-4, 17-1 conference) and the Panthers (21-3, 17-2) could meet one more time this season - if they both make it to the A Conference tournament championship scheduled for Feb. 19 at Villa Julie College.