FROSTBURG -- When the 43rd Alhambra Catholic Invitational began at Frostburg State University on Thursday, it was conceivable that No. 3 Mount St. Joseph and No. 7 Archbishop Spalding could meet in the final.
Not going to happen -- neither team will be there.
The chance of the top two teams in the Baltimore Catholic League meeting in the final ended when BCL champion St. Joe dropped its first game Thursday while runner-up Spalding was victorious.
The hopes of one Baltimore team in the final disappeared last night as Jesse Brooks' desperation three-point shot from just over midcourt hit the side of the rim and out to give Philadelphia's St. Joseph's Prep a thrilling 54-52 victory.
"It didn't miss by much, but praise the Lord it didn't go in," said St. Joseph's veteran coach Speedy Morris.
The Cavaliers (26-7) lost at the buzzer much the same way they did to Mount St. Joseph in the BCL tournament final, 49-48. They had the ball and the chance to win, and once again, 7-footer Will Bowers had a big game with 23 points, scoring eight in the final quarter as Spalding rallied.
"It just didn't happen, but I'm so proud of our players," said Spalding coach Mike Glick, whose Cavs were emotional in their locker room afterward and unable to talk to the media.
"They played a great game and battled back the whole time [continually behind by six or seven points], and it typifies our season, just one possession away."
Coach William Wells' 1996 St. Frances Panthers with Mark Karcher are the last BCL team to win the tournament.
St. Joseph's has never won the Alhambra and was third last year under Morris, who won the prestigious tournament in 1975 and 1976 with Philadelphia's Roman Catholic.
The Hawks (27-1) will play at 8:15 tonight for the crown against Bishop O'Connell, while Spalding plays in the championship third-place game at 6:30 p.m. against Judge Memorial of Salt Lake City.
Morris, who also coached at La Salle University before returning to the high school ranks with St. Joseph's Prep, knows his Hawks did not do the things they usually do to win.
"I'm happy with our defense to hold a team like that to 52 points, but we just got a little shaky at the end," said Morris, whose team's only loss was to Roman Catholic, 65-59, but the Hawks went on to win the Philadelphia Catholic League.
"With an eight-point lead [50-42 with 2:28 left], we missed two layups, turned it over twice and missed four foul shots. We gave them a chance to win the game."
St. Joseph's made three of its last seven shots at the foul line to finish 12-for-17. Spalding only went to the line three times the entire game and made all three.
Dave Douglas sank a pair for the Cavs with 30 seconds remaining to put his team within 52-50. T.J. Valerio sank the second of two for the Hawks to make it 53-50, but a drive and layup by Brooks cut it to 53-52 with 20 seconds on the clock.
Douglas stole the inbounds pass, but the Cavs missed a shot and turned it over. John Griffin, who combined with Mark Zoller for 31 points, was fouled and sank the first of two with 2.5 seconds left for a 54-52 lead. Spalding immediately got the ball to Brooks for the last shot.
Cathedral 68, No. 3 Mount St. Joseph 60: Majak Kou, a 6-5 senior forward who weighs just 150 pounds, scored 43 points for the Hamilton, Ontario, team to deal the Gaels (28-5) their second straight loss in the tournament in the consolation round.
The Mount will play its final game for third place at 3 p.m. today against the host team, Bishop Walsh of Cumberland.
Bishop Walsh was drilled by DeMatha, 105-50, which was routed by Spalding, 68-39, on Thursday.
The Gaels' Keon Lattimore had a team-high 20 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
St. Joseph's (Pa.) 54, Spalding 52
S--Bowers 23, Brackney 3, Brooks 5, Douglas 2, Dixon 2, Durr 8, Gay 6, Latonick 3. Totals 22 3-3 52. SJ--Zoller 15, Griffin 16, Clark 8, Valerio 9, Eisenmann 6. Totals 17 12-17 54. Half: SJ, 24-22.
Cathedral (Ont.) 68, Mount St. Joseph 60
MSJ--O'Connor 8, W. Thomas 10, Fair 4, Lattimore 20, Horne 6, Johnson 7, C. Thomas 3, Goodwin 2. Totals 22 4-14 60. C--Kou 43, Dunkley 16, Harvey 9. Totals: 26 10-14 68. Half: M, 27-24.