Posted On: 01/16/18 12:12 PM
Last night at Goucher College, the gymnasium filled up to standing room only as the two top teams in the city, St. Frances and Poly, battled for bragging rights. 1300 fans filled the gym, but once bystanders outside found other ways in, it became crowded to the point where the players could barely inbound the ball. Some would look at this as chaos, but in Baltimore, this is normal for a big game. St. Frances edged Poly by a final score of 65-57. With the win, the Panthers move to 21-2 overall while the Engineers fall to 8-2.
— Colby Giacubeno (@ColbyGHoops) January 16, 2018
Let’s take a look at the takeaways from this classic:
Bassirou Diop shines brightly in the spotlight
Diop has been a consistent producer for St. Frances all season long, but last night he had the best game of quite possible his career considering what was at stake. The 6’7 junior transferred to St. Frances last summer from Bayside High School in Virginia Beach and won the starting position right away. Diop led the Panthers with 18 points on the night and did so in a variety of ways. In the first half he was scoring from the block with his back to the basket. He displayed nice footwork and athleticism to overcome the length of the Poly frontcourt. In the second half, he did a great job of setting ball screens and rolling hard to the basket, where he would eventually be the receiver of a pass for an easy lay up. Many of the Panthers’ main scorers had off nights and Diop stepped up when they needed him most.
Demetrius Mims is a man on a mission
Mims is the fiercest scorer in the city of Baltimore. In transition, he’s like a bulldozer seeking contact from anyone around in order to draw a foul and finish the lay up or dunk while doing so. Last night the Long Beach State commit scored a game-high 25 points that included four three-pointers and multiple rim-rocking dunks. Mims made a great defensive play, blocking Jordan Toles’ dunk attempt in second half to help the momentum swing in Poly’s direction (if you’re not familiar with Toles, he has about 10 poster dunks this season alone). There aren’t many players right now that could stop Mims considering the confidence and intensity he plays with night in and night out.
Rajeir Jones comes up big in crunch time
Late in the fourth quarter as the Panthers were rallying, senior guard Rajeir Jones scored five of his nine points when they needed it most. Jones caught the ball on the left baseline, jabbed towards the middle and quickly drove to his left before taking off for a two-handed dunk that ignited the gym. He followed that electrifying play by nailing a three in transition to pretty much seal the deal for the Panthers. It seems like every game someone different for St. Frances comes up big in crunch time and last night, it was Jones’ turn.
Rahim Ali’s improvement is evident
Ali was an impressive freshman last season, being depended upon as the floor general for a Poly team that won the 3A state title. With more weight put on his shoulders and higher expectations for his sophomore season, Ali has shown clear growth in his skill set. Not only is he a more polished offensive threat, but his overall understanding and IQ for the game has improved dramatically. Understanding situations and when to do and not do something throughout a course of a game while being pressured by a top point guard (Ace Baldwin) in his respective class. Ali finished the night second in scoring for the Engineers with 17 points.
A great display of coaching by both sides
Nick Myles (St. Frances) and Sam Brand (Poly) are two highly respected coaches in the state of Maryland. Their ability to get their players to buy into a culture and system is seamless and it showed last night. Both teams were disciplined on both ends. Offensively, both teams did a great job with their execution in the half court, during plays after timeouts and taking advantage of mismatches immediately. After seeing both teams several times, it’s evident that each player knows not only their own strengths and weaknesses, but also their teammates’. That can be credited to the hours put in during practice of these two coaches continuously hammering into the players’ heads what is the formula for success and how they can be the best team possible.