In the first two weeks of this year, No. 2 St. Frances lost the cohesion that had been one of its strengths in winning five of the past six Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championships. But this week, the Panthers came back together.
Yesterday, they converted turnovers, rebounded well and hit eight of their first 10 shots in taking an early 10-point lead that just kept growing as they overwhelmed No. 7 Mercy, 76-38.
The visiting Panthers (17-3, 10-1) are still playing without senior All-Metro center Kandice Green (sprained ankle). Just after Green went down in the IAABO Christmas tournament, the Panthers adjusted and played well, but at the Basketball Academy on Jan. 11 and 12, they struggled.
With the next 10 days off for exams, the young Panthers regrouped.
"I think we let our egos get to us and we let a little bit of personal things get into the basketball side," sophomore forward Briana Hutchen said.
The Magic (15-4, 10-3) couldn't match the Panthers' speed in the backcourt or their rebounding as St. Frances converted two quick steals to open the game and allowed Mercy just one second-chance basket.
Hutchen (19 points, 16 rebounds), Sophy Ngobeni (nine points, 11 rebounds) and Razel Benn combined for 33 rebounds - nine more than Mercy. Guard Shatyra Hawkes had 18 points and seven steals.
The Magic got eight points each from Brynne Matthews and Maggie Marion.
"Their guard quickness just truly blew us away today, and the other piece was the offensive rebounding, and we had talked about that," Mary Ella Marion said.