After seeing the game dramatically change when visiting Mount St. Joseph dominated the third quarter, the St. Frances boys basketball team dug in and did what it does best in the final frame.
The No. 1 Panthers hit clutch shots, got key defensive stops and, most importantly, leaned on their senior leadership when it was needed most to come away with a thrilling 58-57 win over the No. 2 Gaels.
Senior guard Tevon Saddler scored a team-high 19 points and fellow senior guard Maurice White scored nine of his 16 points in the fourth quarter — including five in the final minute — to help the Panthers improve to 14-1 overall, 6-0 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and 5-0 in the Baltimore Catholic League.
Mount St. Joseph, which got a game-high 20 points from senior guard Kameron Williams, is now 14-3 and 3-2 in both the MIAA and BCL.
"In high school basketball, when it comes to the crunch time in the fourth quarter, you look for the senior leadership. Maurice has been with us four years and Tevon for the past two, and they made big plays at the end and walked us through the big moments. They've been doing it for us all year," St. Frances coach Nick Myles said.
The Gaels went on a 22-4 run in the third quarter — Williams accounted for 10 points and junior guard Phil Booth dished out five assists in the span — to turn a nine-point deficit into a 46-37 lead when junior guard Jaylen Adams converted a three-point play with 36 seconds left in the quarter.
But the Panthers weren't fazed, getting two baskets from Saddler early in the fourth quarter and then leaning on White offensively to close out the one-point win.
White's 3-pointer with 1:04 to play gave the Panthers a 56-53 lead. And then, after Booth hit two free throws at the other end to cut the lead to 56-55 with 45 seconds left, White took an inside feed from Dayshawn Wells, sealed off his defender to get open space underneath and scored to make it 58-55 with 16 seconds to play.
Williams hit two free throws to put the Gaels within one with 7 seconds left and after St. Frances freshman guard Khalil Richards missed the front end of a 1-and-1, the Gaels had a final look at the basket. But Williams' hurried shot from well beyond the 3-point line banked off the rim as time expired.
In addition to the poised play from his seniors, Myles said defense also carried the Panthers, noting a key 35-second shot clock violation the Gaels had in the final minutes.
Said White: "We came out with intensity, came ready to play and looked to pound the ball inside to score down low and we pulled through."
The Gaels saw it as a missed opportunity to gain valuable ground in both leagues.
"Coach [Pat Clatchey] said we had to get on the boards, and we had to fight back and get back in the game," Booth said. "We had them at the end, but threw it away with some minor errors."
Baltimore Sun reporter Matthew Bracken contributed to this article.
1 St. Frances 58, 2 Mount St. Joseph 57
MSJ –Adams 11, Jones 6, McNeil 11, Booth 9, Williams 20. Totals: 18 16-18 57.
SF – Saddler 19, White 16, Morgan 13, Richards 1, Garrett 3, Wattie 2, Ayemi 2, Wells 2. Totals: 28 11-18 58.
Half: SF, 29-24