Category: Roland Park Feature
St. Frances stymies No. 1 Roland Park for IAAM A basketball championship repeat; Gourdine scores 11 (VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS/INTERVIEWS HERE!)
by Derek Toney
After his team advanced to the IAAM A Conference basketball final Friday, St. Frances Academy coach Jerome Shelton admitted he feels more nerves in the semifinal instead of the championship round.
Panthers’ 13th trip, a 33-29 victory over top-ranked Roland Park Country School at Stevenson University Sunday evening, was long on angst and short on high-level basketball.
In the end, No. 2 St. Frances is again champions of the area’s premier league, denying the Reds in front of a capacity audience in Owings Mills. Sophomore guard Aniya Gourdine finished with 11 points for St. Frances (22-3).
The East Baltimore school led wire-to-wire, avenging a regular season sweep by Roland Park (26-2). It was the Panthers’ fourth straight title and IAAM-record 12th overall.
They did it behind a dogged defensive effort. They finished it without their best all-around player on the floor in the final minutes.
Shelton, frustrated in recent weeks by his team’s inability to maintain big leads, was proud their resiliency Sunday.
“We need that type of tenacity to get through this,” said Shelton. “This is the best defensive effort we’ve had all year.”
“Defense and rebounding really got us this win,” said Panthers forward Angel Reese.
Reese (8 points) helped in controlling boards Sunday. But the 6-foot-1 USA Today preseason All-American fouled out with 1 minute, 27 seconds left in regulation, with St. Frances up 29-27.
That scenario would have spelled disaster for St. Frances two months ago.
“I have confidence in my teammates,” said Reese. “We had a good practice yesterday, watched film and did everything we could do.”
With Reese out, Roland Park immediately went inside to junior standout Mir McLean, but senior guard Savawn Hughes knocked the ball away. Gourdine missed the front end of an one-and-one, giving the Reds another chance to pull even for the first time since the game's opening tip or its first lead Sunday.
Sophomore forward Amani Humphrey knocked away another pass intended for McLean, and Hughes captured it with 48 seconds remaining. Humphrey grabbed the offensive rebound off a Gourdine miss, and Gourdine was fouled with 21.3 seconds to play.
Gourdine converted both one-and-one free throws, giving St. Frances a 31-27 advantage. Junior guard Khalia Turner stole the ball from Roland Park freshman guard Myah Simmons with 12 seconds remaining, and made two free throws.
Panthers junior forward Madyson Hinton said the defensive plan started with McLean.
“We doubled-team Mir because her and Ja’Niah Henson were the main threats,” said Hinton. “We pressured the ball, got back and helped where the ball was.”
“We switched it up a little bit, get them standing and thinking a little bit,” said Shelton, whose team alternated between zone and man-to-man. “I was concerned with getting off to a good start, and they struggled early which really helped us.”
St. Frances scored the game’s first 10 points, with eight coming from Reese. Roland Park didn’t score its first points until a Henson jumper with 8.9 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Reds’ next basket, a score from McLean making it 15-8, didn’t come until midway in the second. St. Frances led 18-10 at halftime.
Trailing 22-13 midway in the third, Roland Park showed life. A 3-pointer from senior Maria Ferariu and Henson steal and layup, brought the top seed to within four with 2:51 remaining.
Gourdine, who’s had a breakout season, answered for the Panthers with a drive and converted a steal into a layup, pushing the lead to 27-18 entering the fourth.
Reese said Gourdine established herself as the Panthers’ point guard, following the graduation of Nia Clouden, last year’s VSN Co-Player of the Year who’s playing at Michigan State University.
“So much improvement, especially from freshman year,” said Reese. “When I fouled out, I told her she had to control this game and keep us together.”
Roland Park was in position to finally forge in front after McLean’s basket made it 27-25 with 4:35 remaining in regulation. After a St. Frances timeout, Madyson Hinton dished off to Hughes for a layup.
“We have mental toughness,” said Hinton.
Poised for its first IAAM A title, Roland Park played its worst game Sunday. The Reds, ranked 20th in the latest USA Today Super 25, shot just 26-percent including 2-of-16 from 3-point range and turned the ball over 15 times.
The 29 points Sunday were the fewest in a game since 2013.
“I feel like we never found our rhythm,” said Reds coach Dani Steinbach, who got a game-high 12 points from Henson. “I just told the kids we had a fantastic run. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end with what you want but we have so much to proud of. We were composed in the face of extreme disappointment.”
St. Frances was in work of progress this season with Reese the only starter back. The Panthers’ 45-game league win streak was snapped by Roland Park last month.
St. Frances also overcame off-court distractions.
“When I was freshman, I really didn’t know what it meant to have St. Frances across the chest. It was a long, rough season,” said Reese. “I’m really happy for my team.”
IAAM A Conference basketball championship
at Stevenson University
No. 2 St. Frances Academy 33, No. 1 Roland Park Country School 29
St. Frances - Gourdine 11, Reese 8, Hughes 7, Hinton 2, Turner 2. Totals 11 9-18 33.
Roland Park - Henson 12, Ferariu 7, McLean 7, Robinson 2, Simmons 1. Totals 10 7-11 29.
St. Frances 10 8 9 6 - 33
Roland Park 2 8 8 11 - 29