As a senior leader, St. Frances guard Shatyra Hawkes talks about the importance of setting an example and communicating with her younger teammates.
On Wednesday night against No. 1 Seton Keough, Hawkes' fine performance on the court spoke volumes.
With a team-high 29 points - including a 3-pointer with three seconds left to force overtime - Hawkes led the No. 5 Panthers to a 70-62 win over the defending Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference champion Gators in a rematch of last season's title game.
After leading for most of the first three quarters, the host Panthers (3-1, 2-0 in the IAAM) had to rally from a 58-51 deficit in the latter stages of the fourth quarter, getting the tying three from Hawkes along the right baseline. Hawkes also was fouled on the play, but was unable to convert the winning free throw.
The big shot, however, was more than enough momentum going into overtime. The Panthers clamped down on defense, forcing four straight turnovers. They also got four more points from Hawkes, four free throws from Dominique Hagins (11 points) and a key follow basket from Briana Hutchen (19 points) to win comfortably.
"We just had to stick together. Defense had to be first before we could knock down shots," Hawkes said.
Hassling defense and quick spurts of offense helped the Panthers consistently build leads, but the Gators (1-2, 0-1) had an answer in junior forward Achiri Ade, who dominated the inside to finish with 29 points. When teammate Liz Brown scored a layup off a swift pass inside from Rianna Frazer, providing a 58-51 lead with 5:20 to play, it appeared the Gators were on their way to another win against their closest rival.
The Panthers had another idea.
Hutchens scored the next six points to cut the lead to 58-57 with 2:02 to play. Ade followed a miss to give the Gators a 60-57 lead with 55 seconds left before Hawkes made good on her last-second chance to be the hero.
"I missed the first one [a 3-pointer with eight seconds left] but after that, I was like: 'I'm going to get this one.' It was faith, just knowing I would knock it down," she said.
SK-Ade 29, Frazer 9, Harrison 6, Brown 4, Davis 2, Hines 1, Walpher 2. Totals: 23 12-16 62.
SF-Hawkes 29, Hutchens 19, Hagins 11, Harmon 10, Kassama 1. Totals: 21 22-29 70.