When the players for Seton Keough's No. 1 girls basketball team found out one of their top guards, Katelyn Fischer, had the flu and wouldn't play last night at No. 2 St. Frances, they were pretty upset.
Coach Jackie Boswell served them an ultimatum: "We've got two choices. We can sulk because we've got a starter sitting out or we can make it the team effort that we talk about all year long."
The Gators opted for the latter, coming together in a stellar mix of teamwork, composure and inside-outside offense to beat the Panthers, 62-40, before about 600 fans in an Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference showdown.
The game was close until the Gators (15-1 overall, 6-0 conference) began exploiting the inside midway through the second quarter, with the Panthers' 6-foot-1 All-Metro center, Kandice Green, on the bench with two fouls.
Asya Bussie, a 6-3 All-Metro center who scored her 1,000th career point last night, had nine points in less than three minutes to spark a 19-6 Gators run that included two three-pointers by Arika Ullman and two put-backs by Ayana Lee.
"We said to make sure Ayana and Asya both touched the ball every time down the floor, whether they shoot it or kick it back out," Boswell said. "If we just tried to do a perimeter game, we were probably going to lose that battle in the stretch."
The Gators continued to extend their lead, running it to as many as 25 points.
"They made some plays and turnovers helped them to get a little separation, and I think we kind of hurt ourselves by trying to do too much too soon," Panthers coach Jerome Shelton said. "We started playing one-one and our shot selection hurt us a lot."
Bussie finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Lee had nine of each. Ullman scored 12 points and point guard B.J. Williams, who did a great job keeping her team under control, had 13 points and five assists.
The Panthers (12-2, 6-1) struggled to find an offensive rhythm. Green, coming back from an ankle sprain, did not score, but 6-2 Sophy Ngobeni came off the bench to score nine. Guard Shatyra Hawkes had 18.