The player Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey calls the team's "glue guy" helped stick it to Calvert Hall in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference/Baltimore Catholic League game Friday night in Irvington.
Senior do-it-all guard Pierre Johnson played lock-down defense, scored seven points, added four assists and grabbed six rebounds in the No. 2 Gaels' 66-42 victory that extended their winning streak to 10 in a row — including nine straight on the road — and sent the Cardinals to their fifth consecutive defeat.
"Coach tells us, 'If you want to be on the floor, you have to play defense,'" Johnson said after he and his teammates held Calvert Hall (11-9) to a meager 27 points through the first three quarters.
Clatchey said that Johnson, who was part of a defense that caused 14 turnovers, is a key to the team's success.
Pierre is willing to do whatever it takes to win," the coach said. "He doesn't need to score. All he wants to do is win."
For the Cardinals, there were no excuses, even though not having star 6-foot-8 senior center Justin Gorham would certainly qualify as genuine one.
Calvert Hall, which earned both the A Conference and BCL titles last year, will play without Gorham for the rest of the season due to "a coach's decision," according to Calvert Hall coach John Bauersfeld. He did not elaborate on the reason.
The fact that Calvert Hall's best player was unavailable in and of itself did not alter how Mount St. Joseph (18-2) played defense, Johnson said.
"He's a great player, but we didn't change anything because he wasn't there," Johnson said about the Towson University signee.
Yet the Cardianls were clearly lacking the punch — if not the want-to — to stay with a team as talented at the Gaels.
"We expected them to shoot a lot of jump shots," Johnson said. "But they changed what we expected them to do, and they came at us inside where we're really strong, so it worked out for us."
Bauersfeld thought his team gave less a stellar effort in a loss to McDonogh on Wednesday, so he wanted his team to be more aggressive by pushing the ball up the court and right at Mount St. Joseph's big men.
"I thought we did it pretty well," Bauersfeld said. "We just didn't finish."
Calvert Hall kept it close until early in the second quarter, pulling to within a point, at 19-18, on a stick-back by sophomore Josh Cornish before the Gaels exploded for a 14-0 run started by a soft jumper in the paint by leading scorer Randy Miller, who led the hosts with 15 points.
The onslaught continued a stick-back and jumper from the top of the key by 6-foot-8 sophomore forward Jalen Smith, a layup by sophomore guard Darryl Morsell, a jumper by junior forward Nigel Jackson and an authoritative slam by senior guard Miles Wilson.
By the time it was over, Mount St. Joseph held a 31-18 advantage and never led by less than 12 points the rest of the way.
It helped that Mount St. Joseph shot 90 percent from the line for the game while Calvert Hall was a solid 15 for 21 in that department.
Griffiths led the Cardinals with 13 points while sophomore Brendan Adams added seven.
"Nobody in the A Conference is going to feel sorry for us," Bauersfeld said. "We just have to go out and play. That's all we can do."