Seton Keough's Asya Bussie took the lead from the start of last night's Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship.
The 6-foot-4 senior center dominated the inside, played aggressive defense and stayed out of foul trouble in leading the No. 3 Gators to a 58-38 upset of No. 1 and six-time defending champion St. Frances at Stevenson University.
Bussie had 22 points and 14 rebounds as the Gators won their first title since 2000, the inaugural season of the IAAM.
"She's never won a championship, and I think she put everything she had into this game. You saw it on both ends of the floor," St. Frances coach Jerome Shelton said. "I felt that she dominated our two post players, and to me, that was the game."
Bussie drew extra motivation for her performance from a text message she received before the game from older brother Landon Bussie.
"He said win this one for my father [Gerald Bussie], who passed away recently, so I was really focused on that," she said, "and I know how bad everyone on my team wanted this."
That showed on the court, especially in the seniors. Carly Read hit a big shot in the fourth quarter. Katelyn Fischer went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final 1:27. And sophomore guard Amber Singletary had a terrific effort with 17 points.
Last night, the Gators (20-8) came out strong from the tip-off - something they hadn't done in their last meeting with the Panthers (24-2), who like to run and can score points in a hurry. The Gators never trailed and gradually increased their lead to 15 early in the third quarter.
The Panthers, led by 11 points from Tasia Bristow, didn't shoot well, so they never got their press going, and they didn't rebound well, so that kept the brakes on their fast-break game.
Midway through the third quarter, it looked as if the Panthers might rally when Briana Hutchen made a layup and then fed Shatyra Hawkes for another to cut the lead to 29-18. Singletary snuffed out their fire with back-to-back three pointers.
An eight-point run to open the fourth quarter brought the Panthers within 38-30, but the Gators took off on a 14-2 run for a 52-32 edge that all but clinched the title.
"We needed to have everything all clicking," Gators coach Jackie Boswell said, "and I asked them if they could do that for 32 minutes, and apparently their answer was 'Yes.' "
No. 13 St. Paul's 37, St. Mary's 28: : The Gators used an 11-point run through the middle of the third quarter to fuel a victory over the Saints for their first B Conference title.
St. Paul's (26-1), which got 14 points from Sam Murray, broke out of a tie at 14 on Iliana Sanza's short jump shot and took a 25-14 lead on one of Murray's four three-pointers with 2:11 left in the quarter.
St. Mary's (18-8) pulled within six on a three by Melissa Perkins and a layup by Gretchen Mayer before Murray hit a buzzer-beating three to break the momentum.
Friends 32, Park 30: : Bealela Donnelly's basket with four minutes left held up as the game-winner as the Quakers defeated the Bruins in the final.
Catherine Rosenberg led Friends, which won its first IAAM crown, with 11 points.