St. Frances makes free shots pay, 64-58

No. 2 Panthers score 26 at foul line, 7 in last minute, to stop Banjo, No. 4 Mercy

Girls basketball

January 30, 2002|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Second-ranked St. Frances escaped from No. 4 Mercy's gym with a win yesterday thanks to a big day at the free-throw line.

The Panthers scored 26 points on free throws, nailing seven of eight in the final minute to ensure a 64-58 victory in a tight Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference race.

The Panthers (14-4, 12-1 conference) needed every free throw, because that was the only way they managed to counter the Magic duo of BJ Banjo and Colette Hailey, who combined for 47 points.

Banjo, a hard-driving 5-foot-5 guard, finished with 30 points and went 15-for-16 from the line. Hailey, a 5-8 guard, scored 17, including three three-pointers, and grabbed 12 rebounds.

"They could be the best one-two offensive punch in our conference," said Panthers coach Jerome Shelton. "We know every time they get it, they're looking to score, and they do a good job decoying their offense, too, to get other players involved."

Though the Panthers, especially 6-foot forward Angel McCoughtry, struggled with shooting, they kept challenging and the Magic kept fouling.

"The fouls killed us," said Hailey, one of three Magic players with four or five fouls. "If we wouldn't have put them on the line so much, we would have won that game. It seemed like all their points came from the foul line."

Actually, 41 percent of the Panthers' points came at the line. The teams drew even from the field. Both hit 17 field goals and both hit four three-pointers, but St. Frances hit one more free throw than the Magic (20-for-25) attempted.

With the Panthers in the double bonus in the final minute, Shadae Swan went 4-for-4 from the line and McCoughtry, 3-for-4, to keep the Magic from getting closer than four points.

"We made those free throws at the end of the game and that was the difference," said Shelton. "They tried to lengthen the game, so we just had to win it at the foul line."

The Magic (13-7, 8-5) hit 13 of 30 first-half field-goal attempts to run up as much as a six-point lead and stay up at the half 32-28. Then the Panthers switched defenses in the third quarter, forcing seven turnovers and sparking a 12-2 run that led to a 47-40 lead.

"When they came out man-to-man, it sort of shocked us," said Hailey, whose team shot 4-for-23 from the field in the second half. "We had been shooting really good and they got us out of our rhythm."

Meanwhile, the Panthers continued to roll up the points on free throws. They went to the line 21 times in the second half and scored 17 of their 36 points there.

"Our shots weren't falling, so the only thing we had to do was drive to the basket," said Swan. "They were fouling us every time, so we kept going."

McCoughtry, who also had 22 rebounds, hit eight of 10 free throws and led four Panthers in double figures with 16 points.

"It seemed like we had a couple opportunities that we just couldn't finish," said Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion, "and they'd come down the other end and make something happen pretty quickly. If it wasn't a basket then we were putting them on the line."

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