St. Frances won its fourth consecutive Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference girls basketball championship Sunday night. The Panthers, though, went through a bit of an unusual path to bring home the trophy.
They scored the game’s first 10 points, and then recorded just 23 after that. Angel Reese, the team’s top player, fouled out with 1:27 left in the fourth quarter, a period in which the Panthers scored only one basket and committed seven turnovers.
Still, No. 2 St. Frances survived all of that and pulled out a 33-29 victory over No. 1 Roland Park. Aniya Gourdine and Khalia Turner each made both ends of a one-and-one from the free-throw line in the final 21.3 seconds to lock up the win at Stevenson University.
St. Frances (22-3) had beaten McDonogh in each of the past three A Conference championship games. This year, the Panthers topped No. 3 McDonogh in the semifinals Friday before knocking off Roland Park (26-2) in this game after the Reds beat them twice in the regular season.
Roland Park came into this contest on a 16-game winning streak and was coming off an impressive performance in a 58-28 rout of St. Vincent Pallotti in the semifinals Friday. But on a night when neither team found its way on offense, the Panthers jumped out to a 10-0 first quarter lead, and the Reds simply could not catch up.
“We got off to a good start,” St. Frances coach Jerome Shelton said. “They really struggled early, and that helped us."
Reese scored all eight of her points in that first quarter during the 10-0 run. Roland Park did not score until a jumper by Ja’Niah Henson with 8.9 seconds left that cut the lead to 10-2. Those were the Reds' lone points of the quarter.
“When we got our 10-0 lead, I knew we had it in the bag,” Reese said. “Everyone was playing together. Everyone was doing what they had to do.”
The Reds recorded just one more basket in the second quarter, saddled with foul problems and trying to deal with a tough St. Frances defense that simply did not give them much room. That’s why St. Frances held leads of 18-10 at halftime and 27-18 after three quarters.
But Gourdine (team-high 11 points) came through in that wacky fourth quarter after scoring seven in the third. Roland Park kept chipping away and cut the lead to 29-27 on a jumper from Mir McLean (seven points, 17 rebounds) with 3:30 left.
The Reds then turned the ball over four times, and Reese fouled out, but Roland Park could not tie the score. Finally, Gourdine made both ends of her one-and-one with 21.3 seconds left.
Roland Park turned it over one more time — the Reds had 15 turnovers overall — and that set up Turner’s one-and-one. She hit both with 11.4 seconds left for a 33-27 lead.
“We needed that type of tenacity to get through this,” Shelton said. “I think this was one of our best defensive efforts of the year.”
St. Frances scored just 11 baskets itself and held the normally high-scoring Roland Park offense to just 10 buckets and constantly disrupted it. Henson led the Reds with 12 points, but this will just add to a string of frustrations the Roland Park program has suffered in championship games.
This is the fifth time the Reds have lost an IAAM title game. They also dropped three in the old A.I.S. and were hoping the eighth time might be the charm to bring home the championship.
“As many times as we got stops, the ball would not go into the basket,” Roland Park coach Dani Steinbach said. “I think they wanted it really bad. They wanted wanted to bring home history for the school.”
SF — Dorsey 3, Gourdine 11, Hughes 7, Reese 8, Turner 2, M. Hinton 2. Totals: 11 9-18 33.
RP — McLean 7, Henson 12, Simmons 1, Ferariu 7, C. Robinson 2. Totals: 10 7-11 29. Half: SF, 18-10.