Balanced scoring and a relentless defensive effort in the second half enabled the No. 1 St. Frances girls basketball team to cruise to a 64-48 road win at No. 3 Arundel last night.
The Panthers (2-2) broke open a close game midway through the third quarter - going on a 19-4 run that extended into the fourth quarter - turning a two-point lead into a 52-35 advantage that was never challenged.
LaKisha Walker and Kandice Green led St. Frances with 18 points each - all of Green's coming in the pivotal second half - and Mi-Khida Hankins added 14 as the Panthers overcame a 25-22 halftime deficit.
The second-half response started at the defensive end with the Panthers limiting Arundel (1-1) to just two field goals with a trapping zone press in the deciding run that covered nearly six minutes.
"We got pumped - more into the game in the second half," Walker said. "We just stopped worrying about the missed shots and the fouls and played hard. It wasn't easy. It was a time for our players to step up and play their roles and that's what we did."
A sloppy first half filled with fouls and turnovers on both sides didn't allow either team to find any flow. That wasn't a problem for the more experienced and athletic Panthers in the second half with Walker and Green the primary catalysts at both ends.
Leading 37-33 with 26 seconds left in the third quarter, Green converted a three-point play; Tanira McClurkin turned a steal into a layup before Walker hit two free throws in the last second to increase the lead to 44-33 going into the final quarter.
The Wildcats, who started a freshman and two sophomores, saw it as a learning experience. Sophomore Simone Egwu had a strong game in the post with 15 points, while senior guard Brittany Watts finished with 11.
"We played tentative. They gave us things we didn't take advantage of," said Arundel coach Lee Rogers. "We waited for the zone to come to us instead of attacking it. It's a learning experience and a step in the right direction. We saw some good things and have some things to fix."