Freshman Bryson Tucker has only played three games for Mount St. Joseph, but in the Gaels (2-1) 58-47 victory over visiting Loyola Blakefield (1-3) he proved he is someone for the rest of the Catholic League to fear in the present and future.
Tucker led the Gaels with 19 points, including three 3-pointers and he didn’t play in the fourth quarter, except for the final 27 seconds after the Dons had cut a 25-point deficit to nine.
Tucker capped the scoring with a layup with six seconds left.
“With that outside game and the ability to finish at the basket, he’s certainly got a really good skill set for him and great future ahead,” Loyola coach Josh Davalli said.
Tucker had nine points at halftime when the Gaels built a 36-19 lead, but he shared the scoring wealth with Sean Carr, who also had nine points. D’Angelo Stines who had eight and Ausar Crawley added six before intermission.
Aidan Mess came off the bench and had three rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal in the first half.
“We like to share the ball a lot, the ball doesn’t really get held up a lot, it’s always moving,” said Tucker, a Bowie resident.
When Loyola started the second half on a 6-0 run on a layup by Charlie Hepting (team-high 14 points), chippie by Cam Smith (12 points) and dunk from Gavin Walsh, the lead was 36-25 with 5:37 left in the quarter.
Instead of Walsh’s jam firing up his teammates, it lit a fire in Tucker, who stemmed the tide with a 3-pointer and penetrating basket. Stines capped an 8-0 run that built the lead to 44-25 with a 3-pointer.
“He’s not afraid of the moment, he embraces the moments,” St. Joe coach Pat Clatchey said of the 6-foot-5 14-year old Tucker. “We’ve had some really good freshman, but he’s a pretty talented guy. He’s very poised beyond his years, very talented, he can do a lot of things to help you win and he’s actually a pretty good defender.”
The Dons only scored a layup from Walsh in the final 5:37 of the third quarter and trailed 47-27 at the break.
“Coach said they like to bring it up at the half and they were already down, so he told us just come out and just run the score up and don’t let off the gas,” Tucker said.
Loyola also committed 12 turnovers in the second and third quarters while only committing one each in the first and fourth against the Gaels man-to-man defense.
Loyola fell behind by 25 in the third quarter and eventually used a press and traps against Gael reserves to cut into the deficit, but the hole was too deep.
“We’ve got a pretty good team, we are just developing who we are still,” Davalli said. “We haven’t really figured that out yet and we are still a week and a half into our season, basically, so the one thing we are trying to focus on is to bring that energy and intensity every night and it’s very difficult to do when you are playing three games and we’ve played some really good teams, we have played St Joe’s, St. Frances and Mt. Carmel.
Both coaches are still trying to figure out a rotation.
The Dons played 11 guys in the first half and the Gaels played nine.
“We had five or six practices, I get it, the guys get to play, but this is very different,” Clatchey said. “This is just trying to get better each day, small steps and it’s going to be over fast, but I thought there were stretches tonight where we actually played pretty well.”
Davalli hopes to develop that chemistry over time.
“It’s basically just that lack of practice time to get better at the things we need to get better with,” Davalli said. “It’s just a whole different feel to the season, really because of the situation.”
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One of those unique situations is players having to wear a mask while playing in the game.
“I’ve actually been pretty proud and surprised at how well the kids have actually done with it because you think about it, before the season the kids have to wear masks, that’s’ going to be really difficult, but the kids have been resilient with that and have accepted it and surprised how well they’ve handled it.”
Now, the task is finding the right combinations.
“Usually, this is the middle of November and we are still in the process of figuring all that out,” Davalli said. “Now we are in the middle of the season and we have to figure it out on the fly and it’s difficult for the kids and it’s difficult for the coaches.”
Mount St. Joe (58): Bryson Tucker 19, D’Angelo Stines 11, Sean Carr 10, Ausar Crawley 6, Aidan Mess 5, Austin Adams 3, Jalen White 2, Ace Valentine 2.
Loyola (47): Charlie Hepting 14, Cam White 12, John Dixon 9, Gavin Walsh 6, Ryan Johson 6.
Halftime: MSJ 36-19