Sharif Butler scored 28 points, including 13 of 14 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, to lead Towson Catholic past Loyola, 62-52, for the MSA Armstrong Conference A Division championship last night at Gilman.
Butler, who had scored 15 points in the first half, when the No. 10 Owls (22-11) built a 35-22 halftime lead, scored 13 of 19 last-quarter points by the Owls to stave off a spirited Dons rally.
"I just felt good," said Butler. "We're peaking as a team right now. And when Silk [James Burrell] went out on fouls I know we needed a lift."
The No. 8 Dons (24-10) had battled back in the third quarter behind the scoring of Wes Unseld Jr. (12 points) and Kevin Chinnia (11) to cut the TC lead to a point, 43-42, entering the fourth quarter. And Burrell, the senior tri-captain, had fouled out with over a minute to play in the third quarter.
But the Owls defense shut down Loyola for over four minutes in the fourth quarter to open a 50-42 lead with Butler and Richard Rhinehart, who finished with 17 points, scoring all seven.
"Sharif and I picked it up a little when Silk went out. We knew the seniors had to come through," said Rhinehart.
Rhinehart opened the game with seven straight points in a two-minute span to trigger a first half dominated by the Owls.
Towson Catholic expanded its lead to 20-10 against the cold-shooting Dons at the end of the first quarter as Butler made a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Loyola closed the deficit to seven (22-15) in the early moments of the second quarter but the Dons managed only one field goal in the second quarter. Another three-pointer by Butler as time was running out gave to Owls a 35-22 lead at intermission.
Loyola shot just 4-for-17 in the first half when Butler and Rhinehart outscored the Dons by themselves 26-22.
The two teams will meet for the fifth time this season and the fourth in the past two weeks on Sunday at Calvert Hall (3:30 p.m.) to decide who goes to the Alhambra Tournament in Cumberland later this month.