Pan­thers sur­vive slow start to move on to IAAM A fi­nal

Roland Park bat­tles af­ter 2 ear­lier blowout losses

Baltimore Sun - - VARSITY - By Jeff Sei­del

St. Frances had lit­tle trou­ble with Roland Park dur­ing the team’s reg­u­larsea­son games, beat­ing the Reds by 39 and 27 points. But when the two teams met in the play­offs Thurs­day night at St. Frances, it was a much dif­fer­ent story.

Aniya Gour­dine scored a game-high 22 points while An­gel Reese fin­ished with 18 plus 10 re­bounds as No. 3 St. Frances ral­lied from a slow start and then held off No. 9 Roland Park 51-48 in the In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion of Mary­land A Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals.

St. Frances (24-3) will go for a fifth con­sec­u­tive con­fer­ence ti­tle in the cham­pi­onship game Sun­day at Steven­son. The Pan­thers meet St. Vin­cent Pal­lotti, who edged No. 5 McDonogh, 46-44, on Thurs­day, in a 6 p.m. game Sun­day.

This game was a re­match of last year’s A Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship game, which St. Frances won af­ter Roland Park topped the Pan­thers twice in the reg­u­lar sea­son. But af­ter the easy reg­u­lar-sea­son vic­to­ries this year, St. Frances fell be­hind by11 in the first quar­ter, couldn’t get its of­fense in gear and strug­gled.

“Give ku­dos to [Roland Park], they came out re­ally strong,” St. Frances coach Jerome Shel­ton said. “This is play­off bas­ket­ball and no­body wants to go home.”

Roland Park (15-11) took a 19-9 lead af­ter one but Shel­ton stepped up the pres­sure on de­fense late in that first pe­riod. The Pan­thers used a full-court type of pres­sure de­fense that stopped the Reds from get­ting the wide-open shots they found through­out the open­ing quar­ter.

The game slowly turned in the sec­ond quar­ter. That de­fen­sive pres­sure helped

St. Frances outscore Roland Park 23-8 in the quar­ter and grab a 32-27 half­time lead. The Pan­thers kept con­test­ing the Reds bring­ing the ball up the floor, mak­ing passes and tak­ing shots, and that wore down Roland Park at times.

Also in the first quar­ter, St. Frances barely got the ball to Reese, who of­ten was dou­ble-teamed. The Mary­land-bound se­nior fin­ished the pe­riod with one point and one re­bound but the Pan­thers be­gan feed­ing her more in the sec­ond quar­ter. Reese notched nine points as St. Frances took the lead.

“We came out rough,” Reese said. “We’re not a first-half team. It was the de­fense that changed the game.”

Mir McLean (16 points, nine re­bounds) made a num­ber of big plays in­side for the Reds, but the de­fen­sive pres­sure both­ered them in the next two quar­ters. Still, Roland Park ral­lied in the third quar­ter af­ter fall­ing down by 13. The Reds got 3s from Myah Sim­mons and Cameron Levine and cut the lead to 43-38 head­ing into the fourth quar­ter.

The game stayed close the rest of the way with the big­gest play be­ing a Gour­dine three-point play with 42.9 sec­onds left that gave the Pan­thers a 51-45 lead. Reese came out to the high post and made a per­fect back-door pass to Gour­dine for the bas­ket, and she added the free throw.

“I just know to keep mov­ing, and I know she’ll find me,” said Gour­dine, who made a num­ber of key bas­kets.”

Even though the Reds came up short, coach Dani Stein­bach was thrilled with her team’s work in this game.

“I could not be more proud of the ef­fort from our team,” Stein­bach said. “They did ev­ery­thing we asked them to do. It was right there [late in the game].”

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