No. 1 St. Frances edges No. 2 Mount St. Joseph

Written by Derek Toney

There’s an old sports saying, “Big-time players make big-time plays in big games.” Those words rang true Wednesday evening in east Baltimore as the area’s top two boys’ basketball teams, St. Frances Academy and Mount St. Joseph met.

In a front of a standing room-only audience including Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, Indiana’s Tom Crean and Fran Dunphy from Temple, the penultimate of the game of the season so far didn’t disappoint as the top-ranked Panthers’ prime-time performers came through in the clutch for a 58-57 victory. Senior forward Tevon Saddler scored 19 points for St. Frances (14-1 overall), and Maurice White added 16 and eight rebounds.

White, who’s committed to Loyola University, scored his team’s final five points, keeping the Chase Street undefeated in the MIAA A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League (both 6-0). He said the Panthers didn’t panicked after falling behind nine points in the second half.

“We were patient and didn’t get down on each other,” said White. “We kept pushing each other and kept making shots.”

The 6-foot-4 wing had the game’s biggest make, taking a quick pitch from sophomore point guard Kurk Lee and draining a three-pointer from the top of the arch, giving St. Frances a 56-53 advantage with 1 minute, 4 seconds remaining in regulation. The Gaels’ Phil Booth was fouled on a shot attempt and converted two free throws, making it 56-55 with 45.5 seconds remaining.

Lee tried to put a pass into White’s hands but Mount St. Joseph’s Jaylen Adams knocked it out of bounds with 20.5 seconds left. Lee inbounded the ball to senior Dayshawn Wells who bounced a quick pass to White in the paint for a layup with 16 seconds to play.

“I sealed my guys and Day-Day got the ball to me in the right position,” said White.

St. Frances coach Nick Myles said Wells, who had only two points, played a critical role in the victory.

“What won’t show up in the box score was the defense Dayshawn played and that pass,” said Myles of the senior guard. “You probably won’t read about it but if you were at the game, you saw how important he was especially his senior leadership.”

Mount St. Joseph (14-3) senior guard Kameron Williams, who led all scorers with 20 points and helped surge the Irvington school into the lead earlier in the second half, hit two free throws with seven seconds remaining. The Gaels (3-2 in MIAA A and BCL) immediately called timeout after Williams made the second free throw.

Mount St. Joseph fouled Khalil Richards with 5.2 seconds remaining with the Panthers in the bonus. Richards missed the front end and Booth grabbed the rebound. He sent the ball to Williams going down the left side.

Williams took several steps and elevated for a final shot from inside the halfcourt line. The Ohio State University recruit’s attempt caromed off the box and landed on the floor as the buzzer sounded.

“I thought I had a good look. I wasn’t aware how much time was left, I just got the ball and tried to make something happen,” said Williams.

Williams along with Charlie Jones were the catalysts for a 14-0 third quarter run, turning a 33-24 deficit into a 38-33 advantage. Williams scored eight points including back-to-back three-pointers and Jones, who struggled in the opening half, hit a baseline jumper to start the Gaels’ rally.

The reigning BCL champs opened a 46-37 advantage late in the third after a three-point play by Adams (11 points). St. Frances mounted its response at the start of the fourth quarter with UNC-Wilmington recruit Saddler, who dominated Mount St. Joseph inside in the opening half, scoring two baskets.

The Panthers drew to within 50-49 after a free throw by Dwayne Morgan (13 points and 12 rebounds), but Booth (nine points) answered with a three-pointer from the corner. It would be the last field goal of the evening for Mount St. Joseph.

After two free throws by White, the Gaels were called for a shot clock violation and Morgan hit a jumper, tying the game at 53 with 1:41 remaining in regulation. Williams missed a tough fadeaway jumper, and White gave St. Frances the lead for good with his dagger from top of the arch.

“It was your typical hard fought BCL game. A lot of good athletes were on the floor,” said Gaels coach Pat Clatchey, whose team will host No. 5 John Carroll School Friday night in a rematch of last year’s BCL and MIAA A finals. “We just didn’t come up with enough rebounds. I’m proud of the way we fought back.”

Myles felt the same about his team’s effort Wednesday especially after a poor showing against Lower Merion (Pa.) at the Kobe Bryant Classic last week. He said the Panthers will rise or fall with their seniors.

“When you find a way to win, you have look at your seniors. The senior today made big plays,” said Myles. “We played some younger guys, but when it comes down to those crucial moments, the veterans who’ve been on this big stage will get you through.”