No. 1 St. Frances remains unstoppable in IAAM A action; Reese nets 24 as Panthers stop No. 2 McDonogh again

St. Frances star Angel Reese scored 24 points for a second time in a row against No. 2 McDonogh to help the top-ranked Panthers complete a regular season sweep of their IAAM A Conference rivals.

by Nelson Coffin

No. 2 McDonogh School coach Brad Rees said that he knows how to solve the riddle that top-ranked St. Frances Academy poses to each and every one of its Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference opponents.

“We have to play better,” said Rees, whose Eagles (18-3, 6-2 league) present a similar enigma to other A conference rivals. “And we have to play with confidence.”

Knowing how to beat the talented Panthers (18-4, 8-0) and having the confidence to do so is one thing.

Doing it is quite another, as the Eagles learned on Tuesday night on their home court in Owings Mills where they bowed to St. Frances for the second time this season.

The 56-46 Panther victory was their 36th straight against conference foes and locked up a top seed and a first-round bye in the upcoming playoffs that begin Feb. 13, although there were a few shaky moments for the two-time defending champs.

The first one came after the opening tip when McDonogh, which also earned a bye and the second seed in the postseason, scored the game’s first five points before St. Frances rallied to take a lead that it never relinquished.

St. Frances star Angel Reese said that clamping down on the Eagles at that point was just a matter of “picking up our intensity.”

The second rough patch for coach Jerome Shelton’s club came in the third quarter when McDonogh junior guard Aleah Nelson scored back-to-back buckets to cut the Panthers’ advantage to 41-37 with three minutes, 32 seconds remaining in the third period.

St. Frances’ response, after Shelton called a timeout, was swift and sure on an 8-0 run aided and abetted by five consecutive Eagle turnovers that pretty much spoiled what appeared to be a promising comeback.

The defense, Reese said, needed “to close out on their shooters and force them to drive.”

McDonogh may well have had to dig a little too deep during the comeback bid.

“It got away from us quickly,” Rees said. “We just came up and threw the ball away. Those runs take a little bit out of the tank.”

The Eagles also got away from attacking Reese when the talented sophomore point forward got into foul trouble.

“They’re a great team and they gives us matchup problems,” Rees said.

The 6-foot-3 Reese will give almost every foe headaches with the way she plays when she’s on, which she was again against the Eagles, scoring a game-high 24 points to match the 24-point outburst she had in the first meeting between the two powerhouses.

Reese said that the Panthers have changed since the early part of the season when they lost several games to high-caliber non-league teams.

“Our chemistry is better,” she said. “We have some younger players, so just had to stay together as a team. We’re working hard to get back to Stevenson (University, the championship site).”

SFA 14 21 14 7 — 56
MCD 7 17 16 6 — 46
ST. FRANCES: Angel Reese 24, Savawn Hughes 2, Aniya Gourdine 6, Delicia Pinnick 11, Taneara Moore 6, Nia Clouden 6. TOTALS: 19 15-25 56
MCDONOGH: Taleah Dixon 11, Aleah Nelson 12, Treasure Valdez 4, Jessica Booth 4, Kayla Liles 10, Jayla Oden 3, Class 2. TOTALS: 19 3-8 46.