Last month, St. Frances had a stretch of three games in three days that ended in a loss to Calvert Hall, costing it the area's No. 1 ranking.
With the rematch against No. 2 Calvert Hall coming up on Friday night for first place in the Catholic League, the No. 3 Panthers wanted to solidify their hold on the league's top spot yesterday against Mount St. Joseph. But St. Frances was playing its fourth game in as many days.
It showed for most of the game, but St. Frances was able to pull away from the No. 13 Gaels in the final quarter for a 59-45 victory at the University of Baltimore.
Shawn Hampton scored a game-high 23 for St. Frances (23-5, 7-1). Mark Karcher added 16 and Darran Byrd had 14. Corey McNeill led Mount St. Joseph (17-7, 3-5) with 13 points and Aaron Bowles contributed 11.
The Panthers were coming off a 70-63 loss to Mount Zion of North Carolina, the nation's No. 2 team in USA Today's high school poll, in the Northwest bracket championship game of the Charm City Classic at Towson State on Saturday night.
The Panthers had trailed 27-22 at halftime, but outscored Mount St. Joseph 37-18 in the second half, including a 13-2 run over the final three minutes.
"We played totally ragged," said St. Frances coach William Wells, whose team beat St. John's Prospect Hall on Thursday and Loyola on Friday. "We really took it lightly, but we were able to put it all together in the second half. They definitely outplayed us in the first half. I tried to tell them nobody is going to sit down against us."
Hampton, a 6-foot-8 junior center, continued his emergence as an offensive threat to go along with Karcher. In the final quarter, Hampton had 11 points.
Hampton helped St. Frances build a 46-39 lead with a turnaround jumper in the paint. Mount St. Joseph scored the next four to pulled within 46-43 with three minutes remaining.
Karcher, who was co-MVP of the Charm City Classic, ignited the 13-2 run with a jumper. Hampton put an exclamation point on it with a pair of ferocious dunks as he and Karcher combined for 11 points in the run.
"We just had the will to win," Hampton said. "This was the fourth game in four days, and we needed this one. We started off slowly, but we finally became comfortable."
"I thought earlier in the year, when we scouted them, that we should let him [Hampton] shoot from a little farther out and he might not hit them," said Mount St. Joseph assistant coach Julius Prezelski, who filled in for head coach Pat Clatchely -- out with a back injury.
"In the last two times we have played him, I know that we had to play him closer because he can hit the 15-footer, and he has improved tremendously."
Pub Date: 2/03/97