There's no question that the No. 3 Mount St. Joseph boys basketball team has revolved around the All-Metro guard tandem of Kameron Williams and Phil Booth the past two seasons.
But behind them has been a steady group of contributors.
In Monday's 42nd Baltimore Catholic League championship game against No. 6 Archbishop Spalding, Mount St. Joseph's contributors stepped up in an even bigger way. Senior forward Charlie Jones, junior forward Kyle Doran and junior guard Jaylen Adams all made big baskets and other important plays. And when Booth and Williams got fully on track in the second half, the Gaels had comfortably found their way to a second straight BCL crown with a 73-56 victory over the Spalding at Loyola University's Reitz Arena.
Jones finished with a game-high 17 points to lead four Gaels in double figures. Williams finished with 14, Adams had 12 and Booth, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, scored 10 points. Doran did his work early with three baskets to keep his team in control. Joining Booth on the All-Tournament Team was Williams, Spalding's Earl Potts and Jourdan Grant, Mount Carmel's Corey Groom and John Carroll's Kimbal Mackenzie.
"We came out as a team and played real well, everybody contributed in every way. We did what we had to do and we came out with the win," Booth said.
It's the fifth BCL tournament championship for Mount St. Joseph under 21-year coach Pat Clatchey, who reached the 500-win mark in the semifinals and added an even bigger one on Monday. Spalding, which got a team-high 16 points from Potts, ended its season 22-12. The Gaels got more good news after the game, learning they had received an invitation to the prestigious Alhambra Catholic Invitational tournament next month in Cumberland with St. Frances also earning a bid.
The Cavaliers had a 22-16 lead with just under four minutes left before halftime before Mount St. Joseph grabbed hold of the game. The Gaels dominated the final minutes at both ends — beating the Cavaliers down the floor for some easy points, getting consecutive basket from Jones and hitting four straight free throws. When Adams hit a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left, the Gaels had completed a 13-0 run that gave them a 29-22 halftime lead. Of the 29 first-half points, Williams accounted for only six and Booth had yet to score.
"We tell our guys a lot of times that not everybody can be a star but everybody gets the chance to shine once awhile and the role players stepped up and got the job done for us tonight," Clatchey said.
The Cavaliers would stay close for much of the third quarter behind Grant and Potts. When Potts drove the lane and finished off his second dunk in as many possessions, the Gaels lead was at 43-36 with 2:24 to play.
But Jordan McNeil answered with consecutive baskets to start a 6-1 run that gave the Gaels a 49-37 lead going into the fourth quarter and then Williams and free throws (19 of 22 for the game) closed out the win.
"This definitely means a lot to us. Two years of hard work have come with both of them. It's been a struggle at times but it's been a process coming together as a team and definitely rewarding to finish it off with another championship," Jones said. "There was no one guy that carries us, so to have multiple guys step up and fill their roles was great. Everybody just played real well.'
After a competitive opening quarter from his Cavaliers, Spalding coach Derrick Lewis said his team got away from doing the things that got them to the title game.
"They had a good season, but the way they got here was by being unselfish, playing together and playing as a team and we didn't do that today. We didn't deserve to win — that's a good team down there [Mount St. Joseph] and you can't play that way and beat a good team," he said.
The tournament was turned upside down in the quarterfinal round when Mount Carmel upset top seed and then- No. 1 ranked St. Frances, 59-50, in the quarterfinal round last Thursday. The Cougars became only the second eighth seed to knock off the favorite in the tournament's 42 years.
St. Frances had dominated the regular season — going 13-1 — and had soundly defeated Mount St. Joseph in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship, 75-62, on Feb. 17 at UMBC. With the Panthers eliminated at the start, the BCL tournament was wide open with Mount St. Joseph taking advantage at the end.
(at Loyola University)
3 Mount St. Joseph 73, 6 Spalding 56
S – Grant 11, Jefferson 11, Potts 16, Meiklejohn 8, Harris 8, McRoy 2. Totals: 20 10-16 56.
MSJ – Adams 12, Jones 17, Doran 6, Williams 14, Barnes 8, Booth 10, McNeil 6. Totals: 25 19-22 73.
Half: MSJ, 29-22