FROSTBURG - Up against defending champion Gonzaga in last night's featured game of the 49th annual Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament, the No. 2 St. Frances boys basketball team finally met its match in a championship game this season.
The Panthers got off to a slow start, and the Eagles from Washington relied on their experience and depth to hand the Panthers a 66-56 loss at Frostburg State.
"We didn't come to play the whole game - we showed up in the second half, but it was too late then. We weren't playing enough defense, and our shots weren't falling in the first half. And Gonzaga executed, especially down the stretch," St. Frances junior forward Dante Holmes said. Holmes and senior teammate Terrell Vinson were named first-team All-Tournament, and Calvert Hall junior forward Jonathan Graham was named to the second team.
The Panthers (33-4), the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League champs, were looking to capture their second Alhambra title - the first coming in 1996 when first-year coach Mark Karcher was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Gonzaga, which got points from nine players, always had an answer when the Panthers came with a push.
The Panthers missed on nine of their first 10 shots to fall behind 10-2. They took their only lead when forward Gregory Lewis scored inside off a nifty feed from sophomore point guard R.J. Williams for a 20-19 advantage with 3:52 left in the second quarter.
But the Eagles answered on the next possession - getting three-point play from Tyler Thornton for a 24-22 lead they would never relinquish.
Holmes led the Panthers with 18 points, Lewis finished with 14 and Vinson added 13. Gonzaga got 15 points apiece from Ian Hummer and Malcolm Lemmons.
The Panthers' season continues next weekend when they participate in the ESPN Rise National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep in North Bethesda. St. Frances will open against St. Benedict's (N.J.) at 4 p.m. Friday. The eight-team tournament continues Saturday and concludes with the championship game at 3 p.m.
No. 4 Calvert Hall 47, Bishop O'Connell 45: : The Cardinals limited Bishop O'Connell to 12 points in the second half and four in the fourth quarter to come from behind and claim fifth place.
Junior forward Jonathan Graham led the way with 16 points and 11 rebounds, and forward Damion Lee added 13 points.
After opening the tournament with a 47-43 setback to Bishop McNamara on Thursday, the Cardinals came back to beat Cathedral of Ontario, 69-62, on Friday, before closing out their 29-7 season with yesterday's win.
"It's fantastic. Our effort - even in the loss on Thursday - was unbelievable, and to end out against a great program like O'Connell and get a win, it's just huge and something to build on for next season," Calvert Hall coach John Bauersfeld said. "We had monster improvement. ... I just told the seniors they really laid the groundwork for us."