Get close against the St. Frances boys basketball team and then watch out.
Every time host Annapolis Area Christian did in Friday’s Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association game in Severn, the No. 2 Panthers went on one of their patented runs.
The No. 9 Eagles tied the score in the final minute of the first half and the Panthers answered with six points in the final 21 seconds.
In the closing minutes of the third quarter, the lead was cut to two points and, once again, the Panthers responded with 10 straight points in the final 1:51. That stretch provided a double-digit lead and St. Frances pulled away in a foul-riddled fourth quarter to claim a 73-58 win over the Eagles in Severn.
The Panthers cranked up their defense in the key stretches and got balanced scoring with Adrian “Ace” Baldwin scoring 13 points and Jamal West, Jason Murphy and Rajeir Jones each scoring 12 in the win.
St. Frances improves to 15-3 overall and 4-1 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference. Annapolis Area Christian (10-2) sees a nine-game win streak end as it goes to 5-2 in league play.
“Defensively, that’s our best attribute. I think we have good nights and bad nights shooting, but when you play defense the way we play you can be in every game,” said St. Frances coach Nick Myles, who praised the bench support the Panthers got from Kyrie Staten, Tayquan Busby and Carlos Alexander.
The Eagles, in their second season playing in the A Conference, gave the Panthers a much tougher challenge this season than last year’s 30-point setback.
The home team came back from an early 11-4 deficit, tying the game at 14 on a 3-pointer from Dylin Borden at the first quarter buzzer.
Later, those Panthers spurts were too much to overcome.
In the final 21 seconds of the first half, the visitors turned two steals and an offensive rebound into six points – Murphy’s follow basket with two seconds left providing a 35-29 halftime advantage.
A bigger one to close the third quarter helped them pull away. Borden hit a 3-pointer in the right corner with the shot clock winding down to bring the Eagles back to 46-44 with 2:11 left in the third quarter.
It had the crowd stirring, but the Panthers made sure no momentum was gained.
West attacked the rim, was fouled and hit two free throws and then scored an inside basket on the next possession for a 50-44 lead. After a basket from Alexander, Baldwin converted a three-point play. When Alexander hit a free throw with 41 seconds left, the Panthers lead was safe at 56-44 going into the fourth quarter.
“It was like all a team thing. Everybody was hyping us up – the bench played a big part. Everybody just kind of pitched in and we got it turned up,” said West.
Emotions took over in a fourth quarter that lost its flow with a number of technical fouls and players ejected from both teams. The Eagles, who got a game-high 14 points from RJ Forbes, were never able to get the deficit into single digits.
“We need to stay close the whole time and we didn’t,” said Annapolis Area Christian coach Doug Sheidt. “I didn’t respond well as a coach. I let the emotion of the moment get to me and it’s on me.”
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