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‘Ace’ Baldwin and Jamal West rally No. 1 St. Frances basketball past No. 3 Mount Saint Joseph, 73-69

The St. Frances boys basketball team had one final bit of business before the regular season ended Friday and the No. 1 Panthers had only around five minutes to get it done against rival Mount Saint Joseph.

The No. 3 Gaels had a 13-point advantage at that point, but the Panthers had seniors Adrian “Ace” Baldwin and Jamal West.

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Baldwin, the senior point guard and reigning All-Metro Player of the Year, scored 13 of his 18 points in the closing 3:49 of play, and West, an All-Metro forward, hit a key follow and then three free throws in the final 23 seconds to finish with 16 points as St. Frances claimed a thrilling 73-69 comeback win over Mount Saint Joe.

In avenging their only area loss of the season, the Panthers (33-3) clinched first place in the Baltimore Catholic League with a 13-1 mark and will head into next week’s Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference playoffs as winners of the Red Division with an 18-1 mark.

Mount Saint Joe, which beat the Panthers 62-53 on its home court Jan. 17, ends the regular season with a 24-5 mark — 12-2 in the BCL and 15-4 in the MIAA A Red Division for second place in both.

After Mount Saint Joe guard Antonio Hamlin started the fourth quarter red hot and stayed that way for a while — scoring 10 straight points in a 2-minute, 18-second stretch — the Gaels appeared to be on their way to another win over their toughest rivals with a 63-50 advantage.

But it was Baldwin, who, like many times before, had the biggest say in the game’s most vital moments.

His third 3-pointer in a little more than three minutes of play — nothing but net from the top of the key — gave the Panthers their first lead of the second half at 68-66 with 58 seconds left.

West’s late work — the key follow and three free throws — offset another 3-pointer from Hamlin — with junior guard Khyrie Staten contributing a big blocked shot in the closing seconds to preserve the win.

Asked what the difference was down the stretch, St. Frances coach Nick Myles didn’t hesitate.

“Ace Baldwin, man, Ace Baldwin,” he said.

“In big games, he makes big plays and he was determined to win this game and he came through. He’s a great four-year player — just a gamer.”

Balanced scoring from the Gaels made it look like a repeat of the teams’ meeting in January with senior forward Jason Edokpayi (19 points) joining Hamlin with game-high honors and Ausar Crawley (13 points) and Tyler Brelsford (11) doing their share to provide the double-digit lead well into the fourth quarter.

The Panthers, in front of an overflow crowd, leaned on their senior leaders to pull through.

“That’s what we do — we wanted it and when we want it more we can get whatever we want. We play as a team, we know we can get whatever we want,” West said.

St. Frances, which is defending MIAA A and BCL titles, takes a 12-game winning streak into the playoffs, opening at home against St. Vincent Pallotti in an MIAA A quarterfinal with game time set for 7 p.m.

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“We want to keep it going. That’s what we want — that’s the main goal — to win championships and get scholarships,” West added.

Mount Saint Joseph will host Glenelg Country in Tuesday’s MIAA A quarterfinal.

MSJ – Brelsford 11, Edokpayi 19, Crawley 13, Stines 7, Hamlin 19. Totals: 27 6-8 69

SF – Baldwin 18, West 16, Ireland 7, Staten 14, Reese 10, Lamothe 1, Davis 5, Robinson 2. Totals: 25 15-21 73 Half: MSJ, 31-29

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