With under three minutes to play in the third quarter and his team managing a slim lead against No. 1 Mount St. Joseph, Archbishop Spalding boys basketball coach Derrick Lewis saw something he didn't like and promptly called timeout.
In the huddle, he challenged his players with a simple question: "Are you guys scared to win this game?" he asked.
The No. 8 Cavaliers' response was an impressive one. Along with diving for loose balls and grabbing tough rebounds — the little things Lewis wanted to see — Spalding got an inspiring second-half shooting performance from guard Jourdan Grant to pull off a stunning 81-71 home win Tuesday night in Severn.
Grant, who was playing with a heavy heart after his grandfather died Monday, hit four 3-pointers in the second half and finished with a team-high 22 points to lead a balanced effort. Forward Charles Meiklejohn dominated inside early with the team's first 14 points and 20 for the game, while forward Earl Potts and Martel Masimini added 15 points each in the win.
With neither team enjoying a lead of more than five points late in the third quarter, the Cavaliers went on a 28-12 run after the timeout — turning a 43-40 lead into a 71-52 advantage with 2:12 to play.
"This is the third year for a lot of our players now and there's no reason for us to not want to win now. We've been losing a lot and they're battle-tested and they should be ready to win," Lewis said. "It's time to start doing that and it's the little stuff that counts and we stopped doing that for a while [before the timeout]. I'm proud of what the guys were able to do tonight."
Spalding improves to 5-2 overall, 2-0 in the Baltimore Catholic League and 3-0 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference, while the Gaels (7-2) fall to 1-1 in the BCL and 0-1 in the MIAA A.
As proud as he was of his entire team, Lewis was particularly impressed with the poised play he received from Grant, who scored 13 in the third quarter and added five more in the important minutes in the fourth.
"It was hard on me [on Monday], so I just came out here and wanted to do it for" his grandfather, Grant said. "I know he's looking down on me, I love him with all my heart and I just wanted dedicate this game to him and have a good game."
After winning three games over the weekend to capture the Gonzaga DC Classic Basketball Tournament, the Gaels were never able to get fully on track Tuesday against the driven Cavaliers. They were out-rebounded heavily, particularly in the first half with Meiklejohn scoring a number of second-chance baskets, and they could not make any substantial runs on offense. Junior Phil Booth scored a game-high 30 points, but 11 came in the final two minutes when the game was already lost.
"First, I think Spalding is pretty good," Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey said. "We gave up way too many points on defense rebounds and it's becoming an issue for us in the early season. And we gave up 81 points, so it starts on the defensive end. I think we fell behind and just got out of kilter on offense, trying to make things happen and trying to do too much."