When Mount St. Joseph guard Kameron Williams let go of a desperation, midcourt shot with two seconds left in Sunday's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship game, all that was left for the John Carroll players was to see if, this time, they had done enough.
In the two regular-season meetings, it was Mount St. Joseph that came up with answers down the stretch both times — the last game a three-point decision not decided until overtime.
This time it was John Carroll that made the big stops late, took care of the basketball and showed poise at the free-throw line. And when Williams' heave ended up slightly to the right of the rim at UMBC's RAC Arena, the No. 5 Patriots had finally solved the No. 2 Gaels with a 44-41 win to capture the program's second straight MIAA A crown.
All-Metro senior forward Jarred Jones set the tone at both ends with an inspired all-around effort. He scored a game-high 15 points, added five rebounds, three blocked shots and was the defensive catalyst in limiting fellow All-Metro standout Williams to just five points.
The Patriots improve to 26-6 on the season and will next look to defend their Baltimore Catholic League title starting Friday. The Gaels, who took the regular-season titles in the MIAA and BCL, fall to 24-6 this season.
"We just had to finish the game," Jones said. "Before, we played two straight games [against Mount St. Joseph] where we had lost after halftime. This time, we came out determined we weren't going to lose this game. We had energy and passion, we learned from our mistakes and we played as a team. This feels great."
The Patriots led most of the way and had a 22-13 lead in the final minutes of the first half. But every time they hinted at pulling away, Mount St. Joseph came back.
A monstrous dunk from senior forward Phil Lawrence with 4:49 to play in the third quarter brought the Gaels within one at 24-23, but the Patriots regrouped with consecutive baskets from Mike Owona (eight points, 10 rebounds) and Jones for a 28-23 advantage.
When Mount St. Joseph reserve guard Charlie Jones beat the third-quarter buzzer from just past midcourt and then Lawrence rattled in a baseline jumper for the first points in the fourth quarter, the Gaels had their first lead since the opening two minutes at 33-32 with 6:42 to play.
The Patriots weren't fazed, leaning on their defense to pull through. While they kept the Gaels from scoring for the next three minutes, 50 seconds, they built a 39-33 lead behind a dunk from Owona and a driving layup from Marcus James. In the final 36 seconds, the Patriots hit four straight free throws when freshman guard Justin Jenifer stepped to the line with five seconds left and a 43-41 lead. After making the first, he missed on the second before Williams had the final chance to send the game into overtime.
This time, though, it was the Patriots' turn.
"What maturity," John Carroll coach Tony Martin said. "They really felt confident and primed for this game, so I'm really proud of them."
Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey credited the Patriots' different looks on defense, which played big in keeping the Gaels uncomfortable throughout the game. Lawrence and sophomore guards Phil Booth and Kyle Doran each finished with nine points to lead the Gaels.
"They played good defense and we never got in a flow offensively. It was a couple plays here and there and they just scored a few more points," Clatchey said. "When it comes down to a few possessions on each side, it comes down to offensive execution and ours wasn't where it needed to be in a championship game."
St. John's Catholic Prep 67, Indian Creek 53: Trailing 27-18 at intermission, St. John's from Frederick dominated the second half behind a 22-point performance from senior Evan Austin. Indian Creek got a game-high 15 points from senior Bijon Brydson and 12 from junior Derron Morgan in the setback.
5 John Carroll 44, 2 Mount St. Joseph 41
JC – Jones 15, M. Owona 8, Jenifer 7, Stokes 6, Elliot 4, James 4. Totals: 15 14-16 44.
MSJ – Lawrence 9, Booth 9, Long 6, Doran 9, Williams 5, Jones 3. Totals: 15 4-4 41.
Half: JC, 22-16
St. John's Catholic Prep 67, Indian Creek 53
IC – Brydson 15, Morgan 12, Porter 4, Bramble 2, Henry 4, Jenkins 7, Ulmer 7.
SJ – Austin 22, Peifer 16, Lecuona 6, Lott 5, Rivera 10, Harris 2, Johnson 3, Boyd 3.
Half: IC, 27-18