By TIM KOELBLE
11:14 PM EST, November 30, 2012
St. Frances Academy, projected by experts to be one of the top high school basketball teams in the United States, rose from the ashes on Friday night in the Gael Center and escaped with a 57-53 victory over St. Maria Goretti in the Baltimore Catholic League opener.
Goretti, hoping to elevate its stature in the BCL, trailed early 7-2 and then took it to St. Frances over the next two-plus quarters.
Isaiah Harris-Winn hit a 3-pointer for a 13-10 Goretti lead late in the first quarter. Later, the Gaels (3-2, 0-1) used an 11-0 run to open up a 28-17 advantage.
Goretti led 30-21 at halftime on the strength of a nine-point second quarter from Martin Geben.
With Goretti leading 38-30 late in the third quarter, a scramble between players from both teams resulted in Goretti’s Ryan Grant gaining possession and hoisting a 3-pointer from just inside the halfcourt stripe that went in for a 41-30 lead as the 35-second shot clock expired.
“You think things are going your way when that one goes in,” said Goretti coach Amrit Rayfield.
But St. Frances (3-0, 1-0) finished the quarter on a 6-0 run.
Harris-Winn opened the final quarter with another desperation 3-pointer as the clock was near expiration for a 46-36 lead, but St. Frances had other things in mind the remainder of the game.
Its harassing 1-2-2, three-quarter court pressure defense began to take a toll on the Gaels, who had six of their 22 turnovers in the final quarter.
A 3-pointer by Dayshawn Wells knotted the score at 48-all with 3:35 remaining and the Panthers reclaimed the lead for good at 51-49 on a bucket by Maurice White, who has signed to play at Loyola (Md.) University.
Freshman Khalil Richards then drained a 3-pointer with three seconds on the shot clock for a 54-49 edge.
Goretti got to within 55-53 with 15.7 seconds remaining, but the Panthers made 2 of 4 free throws to seal the win.
“You combine our turnovers ... and the two and three opportunities they had at times just don’t get you the stops defensively,” Rayfield said. “(St. Frances) was creating extra possessions.”
Additionally, the Panthers put the clamps on the 6-foot-9 Geben, who had 15 points for Goretti, all in the first three quarters. He was constantly hounded inside and touched the ball just twice in the final quarter.
“We just didn’t find ways to score in the fourth quarter,” Rayfield said. “The kids certainly played hard enough to win.”
Goretti held its own on the glass with a 31-28 margin with Geben hauling down 17 rebounds. Harris-Winn added 12 points and Tyrus Fleetwood had 11.
The Gaels shot 49 percent from the field while the Panthers, after a 28 percent first half, ended up shooting 46 percent. They also went to the line 24 times — compared to 11 for Goretti — but kept things close down the stretch by hitting only nine in the game.
White led St. Frances with 15 points and 10 rebounds, sophomore Kurk Lee had 12, Richards had 10 and UNC-Greensboro recruit Tevon Saddler had nine points and eight rebounds.
Rayfield’s biggest challenge comes tonight when the Gaels return to action at the Gael Center against Mercersburg Academy, who will make its season debut.
“They’ll be itching to go against someone other than in practice and we have to have a short-term memory over tonight,” Rayfield said.
NOTE: Friday’s game marked the debut of a 35-second shot clock that will be used exclusively in all Baltimore Catholic League games this season.
St. Frances 57, St. Maria Goretti 53
ST. FRANCES (3-0, 1-0)
Saddler 9, Lee 12, Wattie 2, Wells 7, Ayemi 2, Richards 13, White 15. Totals 21 9-24 57.
ST. MARIA GORETTI (3-2, 0-1)
Grant 7, Fleetwood 11, Geben 15, Buterbaugh 6,, Harris-Winn 12, Akaya 2. Totals 20 8-11 53.
St. Frances 12 9 15 21 — 57
Goretti 15 15 13 10 — 53
3-point goals—St. Frances 6 (Wells 2, Lee, Richards 2,White); Goretti 5 (Geben, Harris-Winn 3, Grant). JV—St. Frances 69-62 (SF: Bracey 18; SMG: Niklas Steiner 18).
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