For a late-December game, the Gloucester Catholic girls’ basketball team will take the result.

The Rams’ 65-54 loss to visiting Franklin on Saturday afternoon was precisely what early season games are supposed to be: a chance to learn about your team.

The Rams learned that they can, in fact, hang with a team that is a legitimate Tournament of Champions contender.

They showed that, in her senior season, Azana Baines isn’t just one of the state’s most talented players, she’s also one of the state's hardest workers.

And the Rams showed that Baines’ supporting cast — while not as highly touted as their star guard — isn’t going to back down from a fight either.

“No matter what the score was, we kept fighting. And for real, for real, I feel like we won the second half — we didn’t give up no matter what the score was, we kept pushing,” Baines said. “I’m proud of my teammates.”

Baines, a 6-foot-1 Duke commit, dazzled with 22 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

She and Franklin’s Diamond Miller — a 6-foot-1 Maryland commit and five-star recruit on ESPN — were the game’s marquee matchup.

And they didn’t disappoint.

Gloucester Catholic coach Lisa Gedaka congratulates Franklin star Diamond Miller after the teams’ nonleague game.
LOU RABITO / Staff
Gloucester Catholic coach Lisa Gedaka congratulates Franklin star Diamond Miller after the teams’ nonleague game.

The two battled one-on-one for much of the game, each besting the other at various points on both ends of the floor.

“I just knew I had to grind,” said Baines, who helped the Rams (2-1) maintain an up-tempo pace through all four quarters. “I know I’m not the most vocal person, so my goal was to go out there and lead by example on the court.”

There were stretches when Baines used her signature crossover and Euro-step to get into the paint at will, helping her team outscore Franklin in the second half — even as the Rams were never closer than five points.

And then there were plays when Miller — who finished with 26 points, six rebounds three blocks and five steals — brought the packed gym to its feet, like when she sunk a three-pointer with 4.9 seconds left in the first half and drew a foul from Baines in the process. She hit the free throw to give her team a 37-22 lead at the half.

“It was great to see [Baines and Miller] dominate the way they did,” said Franklin coach Audrey Taylor. “I think [Gloucester Catholic] gave us a good test today, and I’m glad we were able to pull it out.”

Azana Baines of Gloucester Catholic is double-teamed by Franklin defenders Diamond Miller (left) and Tiana Jackson (right) during the fourth quarter.
LOU RABITO / Staff
Azana Baines of Gloucester Catholic is double-teamed by Franklin defenders Diamond Miller (left) and Tiana Jackson (right) during the fourth quarter.

Aside from Miller and Baines, while Franklin (4-0) appeared to be the deeper team, Baines’ supporting cast kept the Rams in the game at various points — particularly while Baines battled cramping through much of the second half.

Sophomore forward Jada Williams chipped in six points and nine rebounds and was a difference-maker on defense. Rams point guard Mycala Carney scored nine points, including 6 in the third quarter when an 11-0 run brought the score to 41-36 with 2:25 left in the period. Guard Lynzie Eggers finished 14 points, including 7 in the fourth quarter, when the Rams simply refused to let Franklin pull away.

“We just went out and played hard,” Eggers said. “And it just shows us that we can get better from here.”

Rams coach Lisa Gedaka echoed those sentiments. And, considering the result, “getting better from here” could mean that the sky is the limit for Gloucester Catholic.

“We’re still feeling ourselves out as basketball players,” Gedaka said, “but I take a lot of positives from this game. And it is only going to help us.”

Franklin 15 22 11 17 — 65

Gloucester Catholic 13 9 17 15 — 54

F: Diamond Miller 26, Keona Schenck 21, Tiana Jackson 5, Kennady Schenck 8, Christina Midgette 5.

GC: Azana Baines 22, Lynzie Eggers 14, Jada Williams 6, Mycala Carney 9, Emily Leonhardt 3.