February 22, 2018

Charm City Showdown: No. 3 St. Frances rides depth to outlast No. 5 Poly

Engineers take early lead, but Panthers' bench is the difference in over-capacity classic

St. Frances guard Jordan Toles (23) dodges Poly's Justin Lewis on Monday, January 15 at Decker Sports and Recreation Center at Goucher College. Courtesy of Troy Queen/Sports Majors.

TOWSON — Thousands trudged the streets of Baltimore, forming traffic jams that radiated miles from Goucher College’s Decker Sports and Recreation Center, just to have a chance at witnessing possibly the Game of the Year in Charm City. Those who were wise enough arrived hours beforehand, and those who cut it close on time were turned away, as No. 3 St. Frances and No. 5 Poly drew a crowd that maxed-out the 1,200-seat arena and on the brink of fire-hazard status.

It was so packed that Jay Wright, head coach of the top-ranked Villanova Wildcats men’s basketball team, was denied entry. Maryland Sports Access and other media chains were rejected admittance, too, but in the end, it was the Panthers who rose to the occasion.

Junior 6-foot-6 wing Bassirou Diop scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds as No. 3 St. Frances beat No. 5 Poly, 65-57, in a Martin Luther King Day special on Monday night.

The Panthers (21-2) trailed by nine at one point in the first quarter and the Engineers (8-2) led 33-30 at halftime thanks to Demetrius Mims’ 18 points. But Diop locked down Poly’s 6-5 senior wing in the second half, holding him to just nine points over the final two quarters. Mims, who is taking his talents to Long Beach State this fall, wound up with a game-high 27 points.

β€œWe had to change up the matchup, cause he kept shooting the ball going right,” Diop told The Baltimore Sun after Monday’s win. “They told me to guard him and just shut him down. Just force him left so he couldn’t score anymore. That’s what I tried to do. That was the biggest obligation I had to do. Don’t worry about scoring… just shut him down.”

Diop erased the St. Frances deficit for good when he converted a layup that broke a stalemate with 4:24 left in the third quarter. Though junior 6-6 forward Justin Lewis brought the Engineers within one before the third quarter ended on a 3-pointer, the Panthers never trailed after Diop’s tie-breaking basket.

Sophomore 5-11 guard Ace Baldwin added 10 points, five assists and four steals and sixth man, sophomore 6-3 guard Jordan Toles, scored 11 points. St. Frances clawed back and surged ahead with its depth, getting contributions from junior 6-2 guard Rajeir Jones (10 points, four rebounds) and senior 6-3 guard Elijah Epps (eight points, eight rebounds, four assists).

Sophomore 6-foot point guard Rahim Ali added 17 points for Poly. 

β€œI think their depth hurt us a little bit, as it has hurt teams all year,” Poly coach Sam Brand told The Baltimore Sun. “As that happened, I thought late in the game, in a tight game, their experience hurt us. They just looked comfortable continuing to trust each other, and I thought we made some plays where each guy was trying to hit a home run.”

But, Brand, a Baltimore guy through and through, acclaimed the contest and the theatrics it delivered.

β€œIt brought the city out,” Brand said. “I think our schools represent different strong points in our city, and I’m glad the city came out to watch. I wish we could’ve been on the winning end of it.”

About Kyle McFadden 397 Articles
Kyle McFadden is a graduate from Linganore High School's Class of 2014, a sports junkie and general news-hound. He got his start as a sports writer in January 2014 for Linganore's student-run newspaper The Lance, where he wrote 13 articles. McFadden then launched his own blog in October 2014 called The Beltway Dispatch covering collegiate, local high school and professional sports. Formally known as The Beltway Dispatch, McFadden and Evan Engelhard merged respective platforms in June 2015 to make what is now Maryland Sports Access. With baseball, basketball and golf experience, McFadden brings ample knowledge to the helm of MSA. McFadden covers a wide variety of sports in football, baseball, basketball, golf, hockey, lacrosse, soccer and specializes in the collegiate and high school levels. McFadden volunteers his time at Damascus Road Community Church -- serving as a mentor to the youth, basketball coach at the varsity and junior varsity levels, and leads a small group of high school sophomores every Wednesday night. Although he's only been around journalism since January 2014, he's a high school sports reporter for The Baltimore Sun and freelancer for The Frederick News-Post. McFadden's work has also appeared in DMV newspapers The Aegis, The Capital Gazette, The Daily Times (Delmarva Now), The Hometown Observer, Howard County Times, Germantown Pulse and The Towson Times. He's also won two Mike Powell Excellence in Journalism awards and has appeared on The Best of SNO, which showcases top student work of high school and college journalists. McFadden currently studies at Frederick Community College and plans to transfer to the University of Maryland in the fall of 2018 to work on a bachelor's degree in journalism with aspirations to be a national college basketball writer.
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