John Carroll senior guard Rodney Elliott passed the buzzer-beating torch to sophomore Elijah Long against Archbishop Spalding on Monday, producing the same positive result that is fast becoming the norm for the Patriots.
Coming out of a timeout with 18 seconds left and the scored tied, the visiting Cavaliers put extra attention on Elliott, who swiftly swung the ball over to the right side for Long to nail a 3-pointer as time expired to give No. 7 John Carroll a thrilling 53-50 win over No. 5 Spalding.
It's the third straight game the Patriots have won with a basket in the closing seconds. Elliott provided the heroics in wins against Glenelg Country (54-52) Wednesday and No. 1 St. Frances (42-41) Friday. The Patriots opened last week with a 39-37 win over McDonogh on Jan. 14.
John Carroll, certain to move up in this week's Top 15 poll, improves to 20-6 overall, 7-3 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and 7-2 in the Baltimore Catholic League.
"It just came natural," said Long, who only had one free throw before the final shot. "I just shot it and I looked at Rodney and he looked at me and he said 'Told you.' He told me to be confident, stick my shot, so I had to stick it and it went in. I had a good sense it was going in. It will boost my confidence a little bit, but I still have to stay humble. … We have to face other good teams, so we have to move forward."
The Patriots' plan all season has been to stay close with a variety of defenses, scrap for points and play with confidence at the end. Monday's game against the Cavaliers (14-7, 7-3 in the MIAA, 4-3 in the BCL) was no different.
Elliott led the way with 15 points, sophomore forward Malik Tyne provided 12 and sophomore guard Kimbal Mackenzie added 10.
When Spalding sophomore Gary Jefferson, who scored 11 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, hit a tough jumper with 3:16 to play, the Cavaliers had the biggest lead of the second half at 49-45. But the Patriots were able to respond at both ends — Elliott putting the clamps on Jefferson the rest of the way and hitting a key 3 pointer down the stretch. Trailing 50-48, they got an inside basket from Tyne to tie the game with 41 seconds left. After Spalding's Charles Meiklejohn (10 points) missed on a drive to the basket with 20 seconds left, the Patriots grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 18 seconds left.
Elliott produced the game-winner with 3.8 seconds left Friday against St. Frances. But he was quickly doubled Monday, giving Long time to get off a shot on the right wing.
"We have experience in late-game situations," said Elliott, who has four game-winning shots this season. "A lot of times I have the ball in those situations and I guess Spalding realized that they had to get the ball out of my hands. I had to put trust in my teammate Eli — I kicked it to him and he knocked it down. Of course it's going to give us confidence and it gives us strength. We know that late-game situations we can finish it out."
Spalding coach Derrick Lewis was disappointed with what he called "careless mistakes" that took place earlier.
"That last shot — we had somebody on him, hand up — and he hit the shot," Lewis said. "That's not where we lost the game. It's details and we've been talking about that all year. If we want to beat the best teams in the league — and this team is definitely one of the best — it's the little stuff that counts."
7 John Carroll 53, 5 Spalding 50
S – Massimini 6, Potts 9, Jefferson 23, Meiklejohn 10, Dalce 2. Totals: 16 14-17 50.
JC – Elliott 15, Tyne 12, Mckenzie 10, M. Owona 2, L Owona 2, Tertsea 5, Martin 3, Long 4. Totals: 21 5-8 53.
Half: S, 26-25