No. 1 St. Frances girls hoops rallies for John Wall Holiday Invitational crown; Reese named MVP

St. Frances Academy girls basketball return to the John Wall Holiday Invitational in North Carolina, looking to exorcise last year’s bitter championship game defeat.

Mission accomplished. The top-ranked Panthers defeated North Carolina’s Southeast Raleigh, 34-31, in the title game at Broughton High, outside of Raleigh.

Junior guard Aniya Gourdine had 14 points and 11 rebounds for St. Frances (7-1 overall), and Angel Reese added 13 and nine rebounds. Reese, the nation’s No. 2 recruit in the Class of 2020 by ESPN and University of Maryland recruit, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

The four-time reigning IAAM A Conference champs went on a closing 13-3 run to secure the tourney crown. The Panthers lost in the final last year to Heritage (N.C.), which converted two free throws with five seconds remaining in regulation for a 50-49 victory.

The East Baltimore school trailed Southeast Raliegh, ranked No. 14 nationally by MaxPreps, 28-21, in the fourth quarter. The Panthers, ranked nationally by USA Today (14th) and MaxPreps (17th), regained the lead, courtesy of an 8-0 run. The Panthers advanced to the final with a 49-29 victory over Glenn (N.C.) Friday evening.

St. Frances used a 14-0 first half run to gain a 33-13 halftime cushion. Gourdine led the Panthers with 18 points.

St. Frances returns to local action Jan. 3 against John Carroll School in IAAM A play.