Mount St. Joseph junior Lavon Long provided the last of a number of big plays in overtime against visiting St. Frances — and each and every one was needed for the No. 2 Gaels to come away with a thrilling 78-76 win over the No. 3 Panthers.
Protecting the two-point lead, Long disrupted St. Frances guard Tevon Saddler's drive to the basket, swatting away the potential tying shot to preserve an impressive comeback win that featured both teams playing at a higher level usually found in the early season.
Mount St. Joseph junior guard Kameron Williams scored a team-high 28 points and sophomore guard Phil Booth scored eight of his 20 in overtime. The Gaels improve to 7-0 (3-0 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League) while giving 20-year coach Pat Clatchey his 450th career win.
St. Frances, which received a game-high 31 points from junior guard Maurice White, is now 2-1 overall and in both leagues.
It's a win Clatchey and the Gaels won't soon forget.
"That was a test of adversity and mental toughness," said Clatchey, who couldn't stop rattling off the different players who stepped up at one time or another to secure the win. "The stuff we talked about at halftime, I think we did a better job of it in the second half, and we had some guys that made same unbelievable plays at both sides of the ball. It was a total team effort."
Trailing 43-33 at the half, a 10-point third quarter from Williams — including two three-pointers and an alley-oop dunk — keyed a 18-6 run that cut the lead to 51-49 with 1:29 left in the period. The Gaels wouldn't enjoy their first lead of the game until Long (14 points) followed his own miss for a 62-60 lead with 2:30 to play in the fourth quarter.
After St. Frances senior guard Daquan Cook tied the game at 64 on a driving layup with 1:36 to play, the score stayed that way to force overtime.
The four minutes of extra time largely belonged to Booth. He hit two three-pointers to provide the Gaels leads — the second a 70-67 advantage with 2:22 to play. The Gaels, who made 21 of 24 free throws, got two from Williams with 16 seconds left to take a 77-74 lead.
After Cook made two to cut the lead to 77-76 with 11 seconds to play, the Panthers sent Mount St. Joseph sophomore forward Kyle Doran to the line. He made one of two, leaving an opening for Saddler that was closed down by Long in the final seconds.
"We're a tougher team than people think we are," Booth said. "We showed resolve. We showed we were tough today. We came out with a big win against a really good team, and I think It will carry over."
Mount St. Joseph also got a strong all-around effort from sophomore guard Jaylen Adams, who handled the Panthers' pressure on defense and also scored 11 points.
In addition to White's standout performance, the Panthers got 16 points from Saddler and eight from Cook.
"I'm proud of my guys," first-year St. Frances coach Nick Myles said. "We'll figure out what happened and we'll see them again. I can't put it on any one play, and St. Joe played well. You got to make plays — stay disciplined, play defense and things of that sort. They made more plays than us, and they won the game."
No. 2 Mount St. Joseph 78, No. 3 St. Frances 76 (OT)
SF – White 31, Saddler 16, Cook 8, Wells 3, A. Costley 5, Heard 2, Codes 2, Warren 5, Forney 4. Totals: 32 10-16 76.
MSJ – Williams 28, Booth 20, Long 14, Adams 11, Lawrence 4, Doran 1. Totals:24 21-24 78 .
Half: SF, 43-33