Category: McDonogh Girls Basketball

No. 1 St. Frances distance McDonogh for three-peat in IAAM A basketball; Clouden and Reese combine for 42 (VIDEO HERE!!)

by Derek Toney

St. Frances Academy was pretty good in Sunday's IAAM A Conference basketball championship game. The postgame was another story.

After its 69-51 victory over second-ranked McDonogh School, the Panthers excitedly rushed to grab to the championship trophy and several medals spilled onto Stevenson University's hardwood. Minutes later, part of the glass bowl that sits atop the trophy shattered.

It's no accident how St. Frances has dominated the area's premier league the last three years. The No. 1 Panthers put a resounding exclamation point Sunday in front of a capacity audience in Owings Mills.

Michigan State University-bound guard Nia Clouden had 25 points and seven rebounds for St. Frances, and Angel Reese posted another double: 19 points and 12 rebounds. Loyola recruit Taleah Dixon led McDonogh with 14 points.

The Panthers led wire-to-wire, earning the first three-peat in the IAAM since they rolled off six straight between the 2002-03 and 2007-08 campaigns. The East Chase Street has claimed 38 straight league decisions, including playoffs, over the last three seasons.

Panthers' longtime coach Jerome Shelton was impressed with his team's defensive effort Sunday.

"We want to get our confidence from our defense first," said Shelton. "We know we have good offensive players, but they love to play defense. When you're playing high level games, you have to defend well and we did that early."

"We had the commitment and focus on defense," said Clouden.

The Panthers scored the first seven points en route to a 29-15 halftime advantage as McDonogh had only five field goals. They led by as many as 25 points in the second half.

Shelton said the fast start - featuring two inside baskets from Reese along with Clouden's 3-point dagger - set the tone.

"Nia getting off the snide early, hitting some shots really put a pep in our step defensively," said Shelton.

Junior guard Savawn Hughes finished with 13 points for the Panthers, who received yeoman work from other starters Taneara Moore, Delicia Pinnick and freshman Aniya Gourdinde. Sophomore forward Madyson Hinton provided solid minutes off the bench.

After graduating consensus area Player of the Year Mia Davis (now at Temple), St. Frances gradually had to defined a new identity.

"Everybody had a key part in the win, Dee [Pinnick] made some shots, Savawn made some big shots and played good defense," said Clouden, the reigning Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year. "'Butter' [Hinton] got in right away and got a big offensive rebound and putback and Taneara always does the little things."

McDonogh got 11 points from Elon University recruit Kayla Liles, and Treasure Valdez finished with 10. After two competitive matches with St. Frances during the regular season, the third time was pretty much a disaster for the Eagles.

The Owings Mills school tried to climb back at the start of the second half, getting a Valdez basket and Dixon's trifecta to pull to 33-20. The Panthers answered with six straight, capped with Reese finding Moore in the paint for a basket.

Seconds later, Liles charged into Moore, sending her to the bench with four fouls. The Panthers opened up a 47-22 advantage after Clouden's 3-pointer with under four minutes left in the third.

McDonogh coach Brad Rees said his team, which pushed St. Frances in the previous two IAAM A final, didn't have any "fight" Sunday.

"We didn't show up," said Rees.

Rees commended his seniors Liles and Dixon, who helped McDonogh to the final in each of their four varsity seasons. The Eagles, who lost AJ Davis, their only true post performer to a season-ending tore ACL in the second game, are the last team to beat St. Frances (57-41 in 2015 semifinals) in IAAM A play.

Clouden, who's helped St. Frances to a 96-13 record, fell two points shy of the 1,500-point career scoring mark Sunday. She missed two free throws late in regulation.

Outside of the postgame foibles, it was the only thing that went wrong Sunday for St. Frances.

"St. Frances means a lot to me. It helped me grow as a player and a person," said Clouden.

IAAM A Conference basketball championship

at Stevenson University

No. 1 St. Frances Academy 69, No. 2 McDonogh School 51

McDonogh - Dixon 14, Nelson 6, Booth 6, Valdez 10, Liles 11, Oden 2, Blaze 2. Totals 16 14-24 51.

St. Frances - Reese 19, Pinnick 5, Clouden 23, Hughes 13, Moore 4, Gourdine 3, Hinton 2. Totals 25 10-25 69.

McDonogh 6 9 15 21 - 51

St. Frances 13 18 17 21 - 69