All season, St. Frances senior forward Terrell Vinson has found a way to make the important closing minutes of a tight basketball game his own.
More proof came in yesterday's 38th Baltimore Catholic League championship game at Loyola College against a determined No. 9 Loyola team that simply wouldn't go away.
Vinson had two key blocks in the final two minutes and hit three of four free throws in the last 10 seconds to lift the No. 2 Panthers to a 44-41 win that wasn't decided until Loyola senior guard Matt Rum's desperation heave from midcourt fell short at the buzzer.
The Panthers (31-3) captured their record seventh BCL championship one week after winning the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship, going undefeated in both leagues.
"This feels good. I feel better for my kids," said St. Frances first-year coach Mark Karcher, who won three BCL titles as a player. "They took a lot from me. ... They really pushed themselves to do good things. I challenged them and set the bar real high for them, and they jumped. To win the MIAA and the BCL means a lot."
To get past Loyola yesterday, the Panthers relied on a hot-shooting first half from junior guard Dante Holmes, who hit three three-pointers in the first quarter and finished with 14 points; fine all-around play from sophomore point guard R.J. Williams; and the overall presence of Vinson, who scored a game-high 20 points and was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
"That's what it is - I have to do whatever it takes to help the team win. Sometimes your shot might not be falling, so you have to get somebody else open. Sometimes you may have to get a block or take a charge - anything to win," said Vinson, who hit the game-winning basket in the closing seconds of overtime in Friday's 68-66 semifinal win over No. 14 Mount St. Joseph.
With patience on offense, holding their own on the boards, and making the extra pass inside for easy baskets, the Dons (19-3) almost came up with the upset. Senior forwards Terence Garvin (12 points) and Brandon Floyd (10) led the way for Loyola, while the Panthers made a concerted effort to limit Rum, who was held to five points.
Along with Vinson's earning MVP honors, teammates Holmes and Williams were named to the all-tournament team with Rum, Mount St. Joseph junior guard Eric Atkins and Calvert Hall junior guard Donya Jackson.