On a weekly basis, the No. 1 St. Frances boys basketball team continues to show just how far it has come this season.
On Saturday, against Chicago-power Morgan Park at the Charm City vs. Windy City Shootout, the Panthers took charge late in the first quarter and never let up, claiming a 95-75 win over the Mustangs at Poly.
In the same event last year, the Panthers had to climb back from a 19-point second-half deficit to earn a one-point win over Morgan Park, a bright spot in a 16-18 season.
A year older with the seasoning showing, St. Frances is 25-2 with 10 straight wins.
Senior guard Elijah Epps continued his remarkable season, finishing with a team-high 19 points to go with seven assists for St. Frances.
Ed Ferguson (17 points), Adrian Baldwin (14, seven assists), Jordan Toles (14) Rajeir Jones (12) all reached double figures for the Panthers.
“I’m just proud of my team,” Epps said. “We all just got a lot of strengths and we’re growing up and learning how to deal with adversity.”
The Panthers consistently found the open man and made 14 3 pointers as they led throughout after the opening basket.
Epps was particularly impressive in the second quarter when St. Frances opened a double-digit advantage.
He hit two jumpers and a 3-pointer early in the quarter and saved his best for the final minute — hitting another 3 before going behind the back on a drive that ended with a reverse layup in traffic. It gave the Panthers a 45-35 halftime lead that grew convincingly in a second half.
“The best thing about this team is how they share the ball and care for each other. As long as we continue to do that — and we’re doing it more and more every night — we can have a lot of success,” St. Frances coach Nick Myles said.
“The growth of the program and the growth of the guys over the year has been tremendous. They stayed together. I’ll be honest, the beginning of the year nobody believed we would be this good except us, and we’ve just worked and worked and worked and it’s all paying off.”
Morgan Park (16-8) got a game-high 28 points from sophomore guard Marcus Watson. The Mustangs, who are ranked No. 6 in The Chicago Tribune’s Top 20 poll, were without their talented one-two senior frontcourt punch of Ayo Dosunmu and Tamell Pearson because of injuries.
MP — Watson 28, A Miller 19, Burrell 17, Jones 3, Duling 2, Groover 6. Totals: 20 10-20 75
SF — Baldwin 14, Epps 19, Diop 8, Jones 12, Ferguson 17, Moore 4, Toles 14, Montague 4, Murphy 3. Totals: 33 12-25 95
Half: SF, 45-35