For the fourth straight year, the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament's top seed will not win the championship.
Loyola High (20-12) upset top-seeded St. Frances, 73-71, in last night's semifinals at Loyola's Reitz Arena.
Loyola advances to tonight's 7 o'clock championship game against Cardinal Gibbons, a 72-64 winner over Mount St. Joseph in the early game yesterday.
Senior guard Kevin Reeb put in a layup with nine seconds left as Loyola survived a furious rally by St. Frances, which erased a 19-point deficit (49-30) with 4 minutes left in the third quarter and took a one-point lead (70-69) with 40 seconds left.
Reeb's layup turned him from goat to hero.
With St. Frances ahead, 71-70, Antwan Wingo missed a chance to put the Panthers ahead by at least two when he missed the front end of a one-and-one with 33 seconds left. Loyola got the rebound, and St. Frances' Phil Dixon was called for an intentional foul against Reeb, giving Reeb two shots and Loyola the ball with 27 seconds left.
But Reeb hit just one of two free throws to tie the game at 71. Reeb then missed a layup in the lane. St. Frances' Eric Carroll got the rebound and was fouled, but he also missed the front end of a one-and-one.
St. Frances got possession, but Dixon missed a layup, and Loyola's Paul Howard rebounded and pushed the ball up-court on a two-on-one fast-break. He passed to Reeb, who made the game-winning layup.
"Most of the year everybody else on the team has been the scorer. Basically, I just pass the ball," said Reeb, who finished with nine points. "Today I was just in the right place at the right time."
It was a tough loss for St. Frances (18-6), which lost its star center, Devin Gray, with 4:43 left in the third quarter after he picked up his fifth foul.
Carroll, a sophomore guard, brought St. Frances back, scoring 24 points in the second half, and Dixon nailed three key three-pointers.
In the other semifinal, senior point guard Ross Peacock scored 17 points and masterfully ran No. 8 Cardinal Gibbons' offense as the Crusaders defeated No. 13 Mount St. Joseph for the second time in three tries this season.
After Gibbons (21-10) built a 14-7, first-quarter lead on the strength of its defense, Peacock was invaluable running an offense predicated on taking only good shots. He finished with six assists and just one turnover.
And when Mount St. Joseph (21-10) made its final run, it was Peacock who helped turn the Gaels back, hitting 10 of 12 free throws in the final 1:34 after Mount St. Joseph had cut the Gibbons lead from 11 to six.
"He's almost unpressable except when he tries to get too fancy," Gibbons coach Ray Mullis said of Peacock, who is headed for Army.
Peacock, who at 6-foot-2 is Gibbons' tallest starter, also did a good job on defense playing up front. He had six rebounds and five steals, but it was his offense that got Gibbons to the final.
"I just had to be the glue, move the ball around and make sure we got good shots, not force it," said Peacock. "Basically, when we got the lead, my job was to get the ball."
Junior guard Quitin Moody (17 points) and the Crusaders' defense each helped Gibbons build its lead late in the first quarter.
After falling behind, 7-2, Gibbons finished the first quarter with an 8-0 run (six by Moody) for a 14-7 first-quarter lead.
In the quarter, Mount St. Joseph missed its last 10 shots and turned the ball over eight times. The Gaels never really found their shooting touch in the first half, finishing eight of 30.
The Gaels made nine of 13 third-quarter shots, but Gibbons shot just as well, hitting eight of 11. The Crusaders never led by less than six and ended the quarter ahead, 43-36.
"We just did a great job defensively," said Mullis, whose team helped force many of St. Joe's 22 turnovers. "Our half-court defense today and last night [a 74-47 quarterfinal win over Goretti] was as good as it has ever been in the history of Gibbons basketball. We're making it very difficult for people to score. I hope we can do it for one more game."