Ausar Crawley hit two late free throws to lift the No. 3 Mount Saint Joseph basketball team over visiting St. Vincent Pallotti, 65-63, in Tuesday night’s Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference quarterfinal.
The game came down to the wire in the final two minutes. Pallotti’s Warren Mouganda drove to the basket and was fouled, converting a three-point play to give the Panthers a 61-60 lead. Crawley spotted up in the right corner to hit a 3-pointer, giving Mount Saint Joseph a 63-61 advantage.
Then came a decisive free-throw opportunity for Crawley, as he was fouled with less than 16 seconds left. His shot missed, and Pallotti regained possession and took a timeout. Mouganda got to the basket and finished a layup to tie the game at 63.
Crawley knew at that moment that he had to make things happen.
“My whole thing was just to finish the game,” Crawley said. “Last game, I went to sleep in the fourth quarter and I didn’t do enough for my team. So, I knew that this fourth quarter, with it being a close game, that I had to step up big and win the game for us.”
That he did. With the clock running down, Crawley was fouled and made two clutch free throws to secure the victory.
At the end of both the first and second quarters, the Gaels had a 10-point lead. Going into the fourth, Pallotti chipped away to cut the deficit to just six points, with Mount Saint Joseph leading 51-45.
Gaels senior Tyler Brelsford made a late stand in the final quarter. Many of his plays came on the defensive side of the ball, as he made a key stop to regain possession and found Crawley for his open 3-pointer.
The key for the senior was to get physical and grind out a tough playoff win against a young and hungry Pallotti program.
“We just had to toughen it out,” Brelsford said. “In the playoffs, all that matters is coming out with the win and stuff like that. So, I just told my guys ‘Let’s get stops and we’ll win and advance.' I just knew that the guy guarding me couldn’t really stay in front of me, and I knew that they had to help. So, I kicked it to Ausar for that big shot and I knew that he was going to hit it. I have faith and trust in my teammates, and he came through tonight.”
Pallotti seniors Wade Jackson and Anthony Blunt both made their marks in the fourth quarter, with the former scoring six and the latter adding seven. Mouganda added five in the fourth.
Their efforts came up just short, but coach Dennis Kirkland was impressed with the poise that his team showed.
“We played hard,” Kirkland said. “We fought back, we had a chance to win and they should’ve given us a chance to go to overtime. I thought that we got fouled down on our end — no calls and down on the other end — usually, you let them play. You don’t decide the game by the officials. We played hard, we had a chance to win and if you let us go to overtime, I think that we win that.”
Mount Saint Joseph will take on Archbishop Spalding in the A Conference semifinals. The Gaels’ goal is to not let their foot off of the gas pedal, like they did at times Tuesday night.
“Tonight, we were up 13, but we just couldn’t put them away,” Brelsford said. “I know that going forward, once we get a team up, we just have to put our foot on their necks and come out with the win.”
MSJ (25-5, 16-4): A. Crawley 19, D. Stines 15, T. Brelsford 12, J. Edokpayi 8, A. Hamlin 6, W. Sykes 3, C. Sapienza 2
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SVP (16-14, 10-10): W. Jackson 19, W. Mouganda 13, A. Blunt 12, B. Walker 9, W. Webster-Brown 5, D. Williams 3, D. Carpenter III 2