St. Frances sophomore guard Aniya Gourdine made the most of the final minute in Saturday’s game against Poly at the third annual William Wells Classic.
It was a necessity.
After standout forward Angel Reese fouled out seconds before, the No. 2 Panthers needed another source of offense with the No. 4 Engineers keeping it a one-possession game.
Gourdine scored the team’s final seven points – giving her 17 for the game – as the Panthers closed out a 61-55 win at Towson University’s SECU Arena.
Reese finished with a game-high 22 points.
Gourdine scored on a runner and then made five of six free throws in the final 43 seconds as the Panthers improved to 14-2.
Poly, which rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit, got 15 points from senior guard Brashae Rice. The Engineers are now 12-3.
When the game got close, Gourdine got better.
“We just had to play defense and make our free throws,” she said. “I had to step up, make some shots and free throws. It feels good.”
The Panthers appeared to take hold of the game late in the third quarter with the last six points – Madyson Hinton finding a cutting Gourdine for the closing basket for a 42-30 lead with five seconds left.
After Reese opened the fourth quarter with two free throws for the Panthers biggest lead at 44-30, the Engineers rallied with key stops on defense and by attacking the basket. They gradually cut into the lead and when Dasia Townes (11 points) hit her second consecutive basket with 1:59 left, the Panthers’ lead was down to 52-50.
Reese hit two free throws with 1:17 left to make it 54-50 – fouling out shortly afterward -- and then Gourdine put her stamp on the game when it was needed most. In addition to Rice and Townes, Janya Lilly and Cahce Wilson each added 10 for the Engineers.
“I don’t think we did a nice job of grinding – that’s real difficult for me,” Poly coach Kendall Peace-Able said. “But I guess maybe on the moral victory side of it, everybody was looking at it [as if] they were supposed to 30-point us I suppose.”
The first half was tight throughout with the Panthers staking claim to a 28-25 halftime lead.
The first quarter had seven lead changes before a jumper from Poly’s Janya Lilly tied the game at 13 with 14 seconds left in the frame.
Reese was assertive early in the second quarter and Khalia Turner hit a 3-pointer to help the Panthers build the biggest lead of the half at 26-20 with under two minutes to play.
No. 4 Poly 59, No. 2 St. Frances 58: Poly junior guard Ian Wallace, free on the right wing, squared up perfectly and let it go.
There were only 18 seconds left as the Engineers tried to rally in their showdown against St. Frances at the Williams Wells Challenge at Towson University’s SECU Arena on Saturday.
As soon as it left his hands, he knew it was going in. It did and proved to be the difference as Poly claimed a thrilling 59-58 win over St. Frances.
The Panthers had two possessions to claim the win, but Jordan Toles missed two free throws with 15 seconds left and Adrian Baldwin had a 3-point try and follow basket miss the mark as the buzzer sounded.
“I just knew I had to be ready to shoot the ball,” said Wallace, who only had one made free throw before the clutch three. “It was a pretty good win, it was tough. People were doubing us, didn’t think we would win but we proved them wrong. We stayed together and got the win.”
Behind Rajeir Jones (21 points) and Jamal West (15 points), the Panthers had a 54-45 advantage with 5:07 to play before the Engineers rallied.
Brandon Murray (20 points) led the Poly comeback, scoring a basket after the Panthers had the nine-point lead and then canning a 3 pointer to make it 58-56 with 1:10 to play. Wallace took care of the rest. Poly also got 16 points from Justin Lewis with Rahim Ali adding 11.
This was the second straight year the teams have met. Last season, St. Frances claimed a 65-57 win at Goucher College.