Panthers hold on to thwart Gators

Down 10 points, Seton Keough rallies, but Bussie's off-balance final shot rims out

No. 1 St. Frances 44 No. 3 Seton Keough 42

Girls Basketball

January 09, 2007|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN REPORTER

At first, St. Frances senior Lakisha Walker had only one thing to say after her Panthers escaped No. 3 Seton Keough's gym last night with a 44-42 victory and their No. 1 ranking intact.

"I can breathe now," she said.

Unable to push the tempo as much as they like to, the Panthers struggled in the rematch of last year's Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference final.

"We rushed a lot," said Walker. "We didn't come out like we were supposed to. I think we underestimated them, and we didn't play like No. 1."

The four-time defending champion Panthers (11-1, 6-0 conference) used a strong effort on the boards to offset a tough time shooting, especially from the free-throw line, where they hit just eight of 21 shots.

On the other hand, the stingy Gators (11-3, 6-2) used their strong free-throw shooting to get back in the game after trailing by 10 points with 5:58 to go.

The Panthers led 36-26 before the Gators rallied to pull within 43-42 on two Asya Bussie free throws with 42 seconds left. The Gators scored 10 of their 17 fourth-quarter points at the free-throw line.

Then with 11 seconds left, Walker hit the front end of the double bonus but missed the second shot. Bussie grabbed the rebound.

Seton Keough coach Jackie Boswell called a timeout with eight seconds left to set up a play, intending to go inside to the 6-foot-3 Bussie rather than have one of several strong three-point shooters make the attempt.

The play didn't go perfectly, but Bussie did get off an off-balance shot against the Panthers' Raizel Benn that rimmed out. Benn grabbed the rebound.

Boswell, however, said the difference in the game was on the defensive end.

"The key was defensive rebounding," Boswell said. "Defensive rebounding for us was horrible. We didn't box out either. We need to do a better job of that."

The Panthers 6-foot-1 duo of Kandice Green and Mi-Khida Hankins combined for 19 rebounds as St. Frances out-rebounded the Gators, 44-32.

Things won't get any easier for the Panthers, as they play host to No. 2 Towson Catholic tomorrow night at 6.

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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