The St. Frances boys basketball team visited Loyola Blakefield on Monday night and promptly scored 26 points in the first quarter to take a 15-point lead.
While the Dons made sure the rest of the game wouldn’t come nearly as easy, the Panthers leaned on a balanced effort and strong final kick to hold on for a 65-53 win.
It makes two wins in as many nights for St. Frances, which had three players score in double figures to improve to 3-0 on the season.
The three-time defending Baltimore Catholic League champion Panthers are 3-0 in BCL play and 2-0 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference. Loyola (1-1) fell to 0-1 in the BCL and 1-1 in the MIAA.
Senior guard Khyrie Staten scored 18 points, sharing game-high honors with Dons junior forward Gavin Floyd, while senior forward Julian Reese added 14 and freshman forward Derik Queen chipped in 13 for St. Frances.
Watching their big lead get cut to 55-51 with 2:51 left, the Panthers went on an 8-0 run to restore order. Reese finished inside off a feed from Jahnathan Lamothe and Queen drove the lane on the next possession to reclaim control.
“I don’t know what it is, but historically if we look over the years, it’s always a tough game at Loyola,” St. Frances coach Nick Myles said. “The [Dons] were primed, they had a good game plan, but my guys made some plays down the stretch and I’m happy to come away with the win.”
The 6-foot-10 Reese and 6-8 Queen will be tough for any team to match up against this season. Add in Staten, Lamothe and the rest of the team’s deep roster, and the margin for error is slim.
While the Panthers jumped out fast — Queen scored nine points in the opening quarter — the Dons were hesitant around the rim on offense and had too many turnovers in falling behind 26-11.
Walsh’s all-around game helped the Dons get back in it, and when senior forward Cam Smith powered his way to the basket to cut the lead to 55-51 with under three minutes to play, the Dons had plans to complete the comeback.
The Panthers weren’t having it.
Aggressive defense, the extra pass on offense and so many players making big plays proved the difference.
“We know our goal is to win a championship this year and we want to go undefeated and it’s not going to be easy. But we lock in on that goal and use it as motivation,” Reese said.
Take away the slow start and Loyola coach Josh Davalli was proud of his team’s effort. The quality three closing quarters is something to build on.
“We came out not entirely locked in that first quarter — 26 points in the first quarter, that’s not who we are,” he said. “It’s a shortened season, so it makes it tough to really fine tune some things. But I liked how we played for three quarters, I liked how we competed, I like how we executed. We’re building things here this season and that was a good step for us, generally, especially those last three quarters.”
Both teams will next take to the road Wednesday. St. Frances looks to keep rolling at John Carroll, while the Dons travel to Mount Saint Joseph.
SF – Staten 18, Queen 13, Lamothe 9, Reese 14, Ireland 6, D. Davis 5. Totals: 26 9-13 65.
LB – Walsh 18, Smith 8, Dixon 2, Johnson 7, C. Heptig 7, Fischer 5, Galloway 6. Totals: 19 10-14 53
Half: SF, 33-24