St. Frances put together a combination of defense, rebounding and long-range shooting that proved too much for host Boys’ Latin Thursday night.
Adrian Baldwin scored a game-high 21 points while Jamal West added 14, and No. 5 St. Frances built up a big early lead and rolled to an 81-47 victory over No. 8 Boys’ Latin in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinal.
St. Frances (32-5) advanced to the conference championship game on Sunday against No. 4 Mount Saint Joseph at Harford Community College at 5:30 p.m. The Gaels topped McDonogh, 69-64, in the other semifinal Thursday.
The Panthers' defense hounded Boys’ Latin (30-6) and made life miserable for the Lakers. St. Frances often double-teamedLakers top scorer Cameron Spencer, who finished with 18 points, but had to work for every one of them.
St. Frances also dominated on the boards, repeatedly getting second chances and often limiting the Lakers to just one shot and 10 field goals. On offense, the Panthers made 31 field goals but 13 of them were 3s, which hurt Boys’ Latin in the first half.
“Right now, we’ve got a chip on our shoulder,” St. Frances coach Nicholas Myles said. “I knew we had to be prepared. They were fired up from the [start].”
West and Jason Murphy both were forces inside and each finished with seven rebounds, Also, West blocked three shots.
Baldwin ended up with six 3-pointers, often from the wing, as Boys’ Latin simply couldn’t get over and cover the weak side in time. The Panthers quickly moved the ball around, made great cross-court and diagonal passes and kept finding open shooters.
The defense, though, might have been more important. Rarely did a Laker find open space for a shot or not have a hand in his face. The Panthers often slid a player to double-team Spencer or someone else, and the Lakers just could not find their way on offense.
“We knew we had to keep the pressure on them,” West said. “They don’t do well under pressure.”
St. Frances also used its surprise loss to Boys’ Latin in last year’s semifinal as motivation. West said that when the Panthers realized they’d be meeting the Lakers again, it helped them get rolling.
“When we found out that we were playing them, it kind of just spiked us,” he said. “We just had to get this back.”
They got it back thanks to a great early start. Chad Brown made two 3s while Baldwin sank another on a 10-point run that gave the Panthers a 13-4 lead midway through the period.
After a Spencer basket, St. Frances took off once again. The Panthers got a Baldwin long-range shot plus a West three-point play at the end of the first period. Jordan Toles then made back-to-back baskets and completed a 10-0 run that gave St. Frances a 23-6 lead 90 seconds into the second quarter.
Later in the second quarter, the Panthers made 3-point shots on four consecutive possessions in just 70 seconds. That pushed the lead to 40-13. St. Frances was up 42-19 at halftime, and the Lakers could not do much after that.
Boys’ Latin coach Cliff Rees, whose team has was hurt by the loss of guard Cameron Watts to a knee injury mid-season, just smiled sadly and shook his head when talking about the effort he saw from St. Frances.
“They were great tonight,” Rees said. “Their depth, their athleticism, their size, their ability to make shots. Credit to Nick and the St. Frances kids for coming out and balling the way that they did.”
Myles said he’s looking forward to Sunday as the Panthers will try to win their first championship since 2015-16.
“I’m excited,” he said with a smile. “Can’t wait.”
S- Jones 3, Baldwin 21, Brown 12, Taylor 2, Staten 5, Murphy 9, West 14, Balogun 2, Toles 7, Smith 2, Montague 4. Totals: 31 9-12 81.
B- Lee 2, Walker 5, Grace 2, Schell 3, Spencer 18, Akuffo 4, Nichols 10, Archer 3. Totals: 10 19-24 47. Half: S, 42-19