John Carroll sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley did well to get his team going in his can't-miss first half against visiting St. Frances on Thursday.
The rest of the No. 9 Patriots followed suit in a strong second half that kept them safely ahead of the No. 1 Panthers.
Quickley scored 21 of his game-high 25 points in the take-charge first half, and the Patriots closed out their upset by hitting 11 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter and limiting the Panthers to one field goal over the final four minutes for a comfortable 59-42 win.
John Carroll (17-7) improves to 7-3 in the Baltimore Catholic League and 9-3 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference's Black Division. St. Frances, which had senior guard/captain Daquan Bracey sidelined with a minor knee injury, falls to 7-1 in the BCL and 8-2 in the MIAA A's Red Division. The teams' second regular-season meeting will take place at St. Frances on Feb. 1.
The Patriots used a 14-0 run at the end of the first quarter — Quickley and Nemanja Knezevic (12 points) both hitting two 3-pointers in the run — to build an 18-7 advantage that sent them on their way.
"Coach [Tony Martin] had a great game plan, we played good defense, got out in transition and we just did the things we can do to get the win," Quickley said. "This is a good win. They were a little short-handed without [Bracey], but we're sure they'll be ready to fight when we go down there."
The Panthers missed Bracey, their floor leader and a leading scorer, considerably, never able to maintain a consistent flow of offense.
They scratched for points and made a run late in the second quarter when Eric Turner converted a three-point play and Tairik Johnson (team-high 10 points) hit consecutive baskets to help trim the Patriots' lead to 30-25 with 49 seconds left in the half.
But Quickley was fouled attempting a 3-pointer with two seconds left and hit all three foul shots to push the lead to 33-25 at the break. The Patriots' defense limited the Panthers to just three field goals in the third quarter to reclaim a double-digit advantage that grew in the fourth quarter.
"We just really couldn't hit a shot, tough day and the better team won tonight," St. Frances coach Nick Myles said.
Martin saw growth in his team's play — particularly in the backcourt with Quickley and fellow sophomore Junior Farquhar — and hopes it can be the start of more steady play.
"It's been an up-and-down season so far. We've had 10 starting lineups in our first 20 games, so it's really taking some time to get everything where it's moving smoothly with these young guards. I think we're on the uptick and I hope we peak at the end of the year," he said.
Weather permitting, the Panthers, who expect Bracey's return next week, will try to bounce back Sunday at St. Vincent Pallotti, with game time set for 3 p.m. John Carroll hosts St. Maria Goretti on Monday at 6:15 p.m.