Leading by just two points going into the final quarter, host and top-ranked Mount St. Joseph turned up its man-to-man defense and went on to a 61-51 victory over No. 6 St. Frances last night.
The Gaels (17-2) had lost three in a row to the Panthers (16-8) dating to last season, including a 57-51 loss at St. Frances on Dec. 23.
The only other blemish on Mount St. Joseph's overall record came Sunday in Springfield, Mass., a 73-70 defeat at the hands of nationally ranked Oak Hill of Virginia.
"We played very hard in the second half, and I haven't seen us play defense like that in a long time," said 6-foot-6 senior forward Chris Olsen, who had 11 points and five rebounds.
"It felt really good to beat St. Frances for the first time in two years."
Henry Sims, who had 32 points against Oak Hill, led the Gaels with 19 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots last night.
Senior Quentin Jones, who coach Pat Clatchey says "is the best sixth man in the area," had 11 points and forced several turnovers. Clatchey said Jones "had an unbelievable game."
With the victory, the Gaels retained sole possession of first place in the Baltimore Catholic League and the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference at 6-1 and 9-1, respectively.
In losing for the third time in its past six games, St. Frances fell to 5-3 in the BCL and 8-3 in the MIAA A Conference.
The Panthers were led by Sean Mosley's game highs of 21 points and 10 rebounds, Mosley also blocked three shots.
Mount St. Joseph's foul shooting in the final quarter also was a factor. With Sims going 8-for-8 (13-for-15 overall), the Gaels made 13 of 15 attempts from the line in the last eight minutes.