McDonogh girls basketball senior guard Jayla Oden needed to give her all against St. Frances on Thursday evening. She played with a sore ankle and was hit in the stomach during the game.
Nevertheless, she persisted, scoring a game-high 26 points and providing a much-needed spark in the fourth quarter in a 60-58 victory over the Eagles’ Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland rival.
“I’m the senior; it’s my last year,” said Oden, an Illinois commit. “So, I think I’ve proved my point over the past three years that I’ve been here and I have to be a leader for my team and an example. That way, in the next 2-3 years that they have, they’ll know what the expectations are as a high Division I player. Having mental toughness and just showing that on the court with my team I’ll pass it on to them eventually and they’ll understand.”
The Eagles (4-0) have gotten off to a strong start with a young team. Sophomore Mikaela Quimby stepped up to score 15 points, and freshman Tatum Greene and junior Nekhu Mitchell sunk two free throws to seal the victory.
While they had their ultimate triumph in the fourth quarter, the Eagles struggled in the second and third quarters. In a season in which coach Brad Rees has needed to get his team to jell in a short period of time, he’s content with his players showing enough fortitude to pull out the win.
“That’s the way it’s going to be, and if we were having a full season, that’s what we expected,” Rees said. “They’re very young and it’s one senior on the court. There were ups and downs. We haven’t had enough games or practices, so we couldn’t really do the things that we wanted to do. We’re still learning and still getting better, but I’m really proud how they gutted out that last quarter.”
Oden began the game with 11 points in eight minutes, while St. Frances guard Aniya Gourdine scored five in the first quarter as McDonogh took a 25-14 lead. Gourdine, a Temple commit, had a strong performance in the second quarter, hitting two 3-pointers and knocking down a midrange jumper to give the Panthers a 30-29 lead with 2:51 to go before halftime.
St. Frances’ Jalyn Brown was a sparkplug during the middle quarters, scoring nine points in the second and seven in the third. She made four 3-pointers overall, giving the Panthers a 48-44 lead in the third.
It was McDonogh that finished strong, however, with Oden scoring nine of her 26 points in the fourth quarter. It came down to Mitchell hitting two free throws with just seconds left, but the game wasn’t quite over.
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St. Frances (3-4) coach James Shelton said he wouldn’t have the ball in anyone else’s hands to close the game.
“I think with the foul situation, she had to sit a little longer than we wanted her to sit,” Shelton said. “We trust our younger players, but Aniya Gourdine has been in far more pressure situations where she’s came through and made the plays. She’s mentally tough enough to come back from that situation and make baskets and defend well on that end of the floor.”