Much of the buzz inside the packed gym at St. Frances on Monday night was focused on the return of former Patterson star Aquille Carr, who was back in Baltimore playing for his new team, Princeton Day Academy.
While the 5-foot-7 guard, a two-time All-Metro Player of the Year, had his moments, it was the host Panthers who stole the show with poised play in the closing minutes.
St. Frances scored the final six points in the last 2 minutes, 10 seconds, getting clutch baskets from Kurk Lee Jr. and Dwayne Morgan before Tevon Saddler sealed the win with two free throws in the closing seconds to secure a 72-66 win over Beltsville-based Princeton Day in front of an overflow crowd.
The No. 2 Panthers improve to 7-0 on the season and it was a balanced offense that carried them once again on Monday. Senior forward Maurice White scored 19 points, Saddler added 18 and Morgan finished with 14. It was just enough to offset the 19 points from Carr and 15 from Forest Park transfer Anton Waters.
"We wanted to stay cool and confident," Morgan said. "The last few minutes, that's when you've got to knock down the big shots, you've got to lock in and stay focused."
The Panthers stayed focused at both ends of the floor in the deciding moments. With the game tied at 66 and 2:10 to play, Lee, who played strong defensively and took care of the basketball throughout the game, drove the right baseline for his only basket of the game to give the Panthers the lead for good at 68-66. The home team got the defensive stops, Princeton Academy missed on their last five shots, including a 3-point try from Carr with 1:46 to play, and then Morgan hit a long jumper from the right corner to pad the lead to 70-66 with 1:27 to play. Saddler hit two free throws with 18 seconds left to close out the win.
After leading Patterson to the Class 3A state title in early March, Carr left the East Baltimore school that month and transferred to St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J., only to return home weeks later. He started this school year back at Patterson but was set to move on to Arlington Country Day School in Florida in October before ending up at Princeton Day later that month.
On Monday, Carr's shooting was more off than on, hitting just six of 19 shots from the field. But he showed the dazzling skills that has caught all of Baltimore's attention in recent years. His first basket came with 3:12 left in the first quarter, a nifty crossover dribble getting by his defender for a driving layup. Late in the third quarter, with St. Frances leading 49-44, Carr finally caught fire from the outside with consecutive 3 pointers that kept Princeton Day close. The fourth quarter had three ties and neither team had a lead bigger than three points until the Panthers closed the game out with the final six points.
"It was great to come back to play and it was a good game, but it was a tough loss," said Carr, who scored 1,990 points in his three seasons at Patterson.
2 St. Frances 72, Princeton Day 66
PDA – Carr 19, Waters 15, Better 15, Omogbo 12, X. Johnson 6, Vaughn 1. Totals: 21 22-26 66.
SF – White 19, Saddler 18, Morgan 14, Wells 5, Ayemi 6, Richards 6, Lee 2. Totals: 27 11-14 72.
Half: PD, 32-31