The fact that Mark Karcher adds a definite presence on the floor when he plays for No. 3 St. Frances was never more evident than last night in Loyola's Hargaden Gymnasium.
The Panthers, playing their second game in a grueling four games-in-four days schedule, fell behind the No. 18 Dons 6-2 early as the late-arriving Karcher sat the first 2: 31 of the game.
After entering the game, Karcher led the Panthers on a 34-7 run, including a 16-0 spurt late in the second quarter, and St. Frances (22-4 overall and 6-1 in the Catholic League) romped to a 75-53 win over the Dons (13-8 and 4-3).
Karcher actually scored only seven points in the first half, but finished the game with 23 -- in less than 22 minutes of total playing time, as his coach tried to rest him for the next two games.
Without Karcher in the early minutes, the Panthers shot just 1-for-6 from the field. With Karcher, though, St. Frances connected on 15-of-22 the rest of the first half to build a 38-17 halftime advantage.
Then Karcher turned offensive in the third quarter, bunching 16 of his 23 points in the period as the Panthers built a 62-33 lead.
For Karcher, with tonight's game in the Charm City Classic at Towson State against the No. 2 team in the country, Mount Zion of Durham, N.C., looming, that was the end of action.
"I wish I didn't have to play him at all," said St. Frances coach William Wells. "But Mark is the main ingredient. There's no doubt about that. I was impressed by the play of Darran Byrd [11 points] and Shawn Hampton [15 points], too. But when Mark got in there, that's when we got things going the way they should."
Byrd and Hampton also had praise for Karcher.
"He's our motivator. He makes us go," said Byrd, the 6-foot-3 senior. Added Hampton, a 6-8 junior center: "He takes the double teams, and that gets others open."
Senior forward Charles Beaufort added 10 points for the Panthers. Point guard Reggie Gray led Loyola with 14.
The Panthers, who defeated the nation's No. 3 team, St. John's at Prospect Hall, 75-74, on Karcher's buzzer-beating three-pointer in the Charm City Classic's opening round Thursday, will close out their four-game run with a home Catholic League game against No. 13 Mount St. Joseph tomorrow.
The four games-in-four days stretch is something the Panthers are enjoying, for now.
Mount Zion "will be another tough game," said Hampton, "but we like to play good teams."
His team trailing 6-2 when he entered the game in the first quarter, Karcher wasted little time making his presence felt -- swishing a three-pointer on his first field goal attempt. That touched off an 11-0 run by the Panthers, who led 13-6 after one quarter.
In the second quarter, Karcher's passing skill often came into play, too. He found Hampton, who had 11 first-half points, in the lane and at the end of fast breaks, as well as Byrd and Ronald Wingate.
Pub Date: 2/01/97