The St. Frances girls basketball players moved so fast at times last night that coach Jerome Shelton had to tell them to slow down.
The No. 1 Panthers used a swarming man-to-man defense and a quick transition game to get the better of a taller No. 2 Arundel, taking a 56-45 victory for their fourth straight win over the host Wildcats.
All-Metro guard Shatyra Hawkes scored five of her 11 points and had two assists in an 8-3 run to close out the third quarter with a 45-36 Panthers lead. The Wildcats (1-1) cut the lead to five twice in the final six minutes but could get no closer.
"We started out with one post player," Hawkes, a 5-foot-3 junior, said, "and we just came out with speed to see if they can run with us. They can't block us if they can't catch us. On our fast break, we just beat them down the floor. That's all it is."
The Panthers' starting backcourt of Hawkes, Tanira McClurkin, Deanna Harmon and Tasia Bristow forced many of Arundel's 16 turnovers and relied on the break early on, repeatedly beating the Wildcats down the floor.
After they took their nine-point lead into the fourth quarter, the Panthers (3-0) put more pressure on Wildcats All-Metro center Sheronne Vails, who finished with 18 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks.
Vails, a 6-foot-4 junior, kept the Wildcats in the game, shouldering the inside responsibility while her bookend teammate, 6-foot-3 All-Metro forward Simone Egwu, is out indefinitely with an ankle injury. The Panthers' post players got into foul trouble trying to contain Vails early on, but they put more pressure on her in the second half to keep her from leading a rally.
"I thought we did something uncharacteristic of us and we have to address those things tomorrow in practice," Arundel coach Lee Rogers said. "I think they will learn from this."