After St. Frances knocked off Calvert Hall in a triple-overtime thriller in January, there was little doubt among the players that there was still unfinished business between the two teams.
The second-ranked Panthers and third-ranked Cardinals each advanced in last night's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinals and will play for the title Sunday at UMBC.
In the first semifinal, Terrell Vinson scored 16 points and St. Frances shot 20-for-37 (54 percent) from the field in a 51-43 victory over ninth-ranked Loyola.
Damion Lee led four players in double figures with 26 points, and Calvert Hall never trailed in a 73-52 victory over No. 10 Towson Catholic.
Both games were played at Archbishop Spalding.
St. Frances won both regular-season matchups against Calvert Hall, and Panthers coach Mark Karcher understands that the idea of beating a team three times in one season can be daunting.
"It is definitely tough to beat a team three times," said Karcher, an All-Metro Player of the Year at St. Frances. "Every game was tough that Calvert Hall played us. It's playoff time, and anything can happen. I just want to prepare my guys to go against the grain. That's how I was as a player, and I am trying to get my kids to understand that."
In the first game, Loyola's plan was to control the clock and prevent St. Frances from running up and down the floor to keep the score low. The Dons (17-12) were successful in moving the ball but trailed 21-11 at the break. Wayne Sparrow scored all 11 of his points in the first half for St. Frances (27-3).
The Dons scored seven consecutive points midway through the fourth quarter and cut the margin to 41-36 with four minutes remaining. The Panthers then increased the lead to nine on a pair of free throws by Dante Holmes (14 points) and controlled the game the rest of the way.
Matt Rum led Loyola with 16 points.
Towson Catholic erased two double-digit leads but still could not contain explosive Calvert Hall late in the game.
Calvert Hall (27-4) played up-tempo, opening the game on a 13-3 run, and used various traps to keep Towson Catholic (17-12) off balance. The Owls took over in the second quarter, and a pair of free throws by Devin Spencer (22 points) tied the score at 20 with 2:40 left in the half. The Cardinals led 26-21 at halftime.
Calvert Hall went on a 13-4 run late in the third quarter, led 48-37 heading into the final period and continued to pull away. Jonathan Graham had 16 points, Shawn Holmes added 14 and Donya Jackson 10 for Calvert Hall.
"We're going to go out with the same intensity [against St. Frances] and hope the third time is the charm. Hopefully, we will win the championship," Lee said. "One of my mottos is 'Failure is not an option.' We do not want to lose any more games."
ST. VINCENT PALLOTTI 72, MOUNT CARMEL 64:: Leon Porter made four consecutive three-pointers to open the game as the Panthers jumped out to a 26-10 lead and held on to defeat the visiting Cougars.
Porter, who scored 21 of his game-high 30 points in the first half, allowed Pallotti to take control of the game early.
Mount Carmel, led by Ricky Meekins (21 points), made a late run to get within two points with three minutes left, but Pallotti made enough free throws to seal the win.
The Panthers advance to the B Conference final, where they will take on St. Mary's.
ST. MARY'S 67, ST. PAUL'S 64:: Ronnie Hoffman had 20 points, and Nick Groce added 18 as the Saints (20-8) upended the host Crusaders (20-5) to advance to the B Conference finals.
Winfield Willis had 23 points for St. Paul's in the loss.