No. 1 St. Frances, No. 2 McDonogh girls win at the Power Move Winter Showcase Dec. 16 at Oakland Mills.
The No. 1 St. Frances girls basketball team is much younger this year and still coming together, but that didn’t keep the Panthers from rolling past Frederick, 70-38, at the Power Move Winter Showcase on Saturday at Oakland Mills.
The matchup between last year’s Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference champions and the defending Class 3A state champion Cadets featured two teams in transition. Both returned elements of last year’s success — including Panthers All-Metro players Nia Clouden and Angel Reese and Frederick’s stellar guard Makayla Daniels — but many of the faces around them are new. Early in the season, both teams are still working to forge new identities.
“It’s a really young team,” senior guard Clouden said of the Panthers. “It’s always an adjustment being a leader and trying to make sure everyone’s on the same page, and that’s the challenge. I think this was a good game. [Frederick] played with a lot of intensity, which is something we haven’t seen in every game this season, so that was good for us and I think we learned a lot of things.”
The Panthers (4-2) broke away from the Cadets (3-2) early, turning a 6-5 deficit into a 19-6 lead late in the first quarter. The Cadets struggled against St. Frances’ overall quickness. A swarming pressure defense created turnovers and the Panthers went inside to the 6-foot-3 Reese, who scored six of her 18 points on the run.
After Daniels, who scored 21, finished a three-point play to open the second quarter, the Panthers added seven more points. Clouden fed freshman Aniya Gourdine, then scored off a feed from sophomore Madyson Hinton before capping the run with a three-point play. All three scores came off converted steals. That boosted the Panthers’ lead to 26-9 less than three minutes into the second quarter.
They ran their lead as high as 32 points when freshman Sanaya Gray hit a layup off a steal early in the fourth quarter. Clouden and sophomore guard Delicia Pinnick finished with 12 points each while junior Savawn Hughes, a transfer from Milford Mill, added 11.
“We lost five seniors and we have three new starters,” Panthers coach Jerome Shelton said, “so we’re still blending, trying to find out some new things about one another to help make us better on both ends. Our leadership on the floor, with Reese and Clouden, is helping right now to kind of move that along much faster.”
It was the second straight win for the Panthers after dropping two of their first four games to Bishop McNamara and Winter Haven (Fla.). After starting 30-0 last year before falling in overtime in the semifinals at the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament in March, the returning players weren’t expecting a repeat performance of the best season in program history.
“It is a little tough because last year was such a good year,” Clouden said. “You want to repeat that, but realistically that’s probably not going to happen for any team. We try to focus on this year and this team.”
The biggest loss the Panthers have to compensate for is All-Metro Player of the Year Mia Davis, a strong rebounder who’s now playing at Temple. Reese, a versatile sophomore forward-guard, has a bigger role in the paint and as a leader.
“We didn’t want to think about last season,” Reese said. “Coach Shelton told us he wasn’t thinking anything about the 30-0; he was just thinking about we need to win a game. This is a new team. We’re much smaller than last year, so everyone has to rebound. I think that’s the biggest thing we learned from McNamara.”
Shelton said despite the lopsided win Saturday, playing Frederick helped, because the Cadets were a physical team and didn’t back down even as they fell further and further behind. Also defending Daniels, who scored 12 of her points from the free-throw line, provided a good challenge.
“Frederick came to play and they made us work hard. They didn’t back up and that’s what we want,” Shelton said.