With much of the surrounding talent still young and getting settled, the St. Frances boys basketball senior guard tandem of Jahnathan Lamothe and Carlton Carrington know they have more on their plate early this season.
If Wednesday night’s performance against previously undefeated St. Maria Goretti is any indication, the high major Division I commits are primed to take the No. 2 Panthers a long way.
Lamothe, a Maryland commit, finished with 33 points and 11 rebounds, while Carrington, headed to Pittsburgh, added 21 points as the host Panthers claimed a 71-63 win over the Gaels in Baltimore Catholic League play.
St. Frances shook off a two-game losing streak to improve to 4-3 and 2-0 in league play, handing Goretti (9-1, 2-1) its first loss of the season. Strong second-half defense led by reserve forward Benjamin Brown and a 17-for-19 effort at the free-throw line also played a big role in the win.
There’s no question, though, that the Panthers’ success starts with their two sensational guards.
“With those two, this is their time,” St. Frances coach Nick Myles said. “They’re planning to play [high major college basketball], so they got to be prepared and it’s their job to lead this team to a championship. It was a great job by them tonight against a really, really good Goretti team.”
Behind a dominant first half from 6-foot-8 junior forward Caleb Embaya, the visiting Gaels led by as many as eight points before taking a 32-28 lead into the break.
The Panthers came out of the locker room a different team. A 3-pointer from Gage Howard was followed by a steal and layup by Carrington to produce St. Frances’ first lead since the opening basket at 35-34 two minutes into the third quarter.
At 6-5, Brown proved up to the challenge of guarding Embaya, who scored 13 first-half points but managed only three baskets and two free throws in the second half to finish with a team-high 21 points.
In the meantime, Lamothe helped the Panthers pull away with a dominant fourth quarter. He converted a three-point play to build a 53-47 lead and scored seven straight points to push the advantage to double digits. Carrington sealed the win by hitting five of six free throws in the final minute.
“We’re just a team that fights to the end,” said Lamothe, who also had four steals and two assists. “We were down in the first half, not making our shots, but came out in the second half with the same attitude to keep fighting and just play off each other. We got everybody involved and we’re going to need all of us to win games and that’s what we did tonight.”
The duo is savoring their role as leaders.
“We’re here with a purpose. We want to show we can win games, we can rally a team and eventually carry a team to a championship,” said Carrington, who had five rebounds, three assists and a steal.
In addition to Brown’s defensive work down low, Myles also credited junior guard Tyler Baldwin and junior forward Malachi Lancaster for their positive energy at the defensive end.
“Benjamin came in and did a great job being aggressive and physical on defense, along with Malachi Lancaster and Tyler Baldwin,” Myles said. “They may not have scored the points tonight, but they changed the tide defensively when we really needed it.”
The Panthers also got a 10-point, five-rebound effort from sophomore guard Tyler Jackson.
Both teams return to action Friday at 7 p.m. St. Frances travels to Philadelphia to visit Archbishop Ryan, while Goretti continues league play when it hosts Calvert Hall.
SMG — Allen 7 , Embeya 21, Alexander 22, Cook 2, Cheung 6, Gassaway 2, Johnson 3. Totals: 25 7-9 63
SF — Jackson 10, Baldwin 2, Lamothe 33, Carrington 21, Howard 5. Totals: 24 17-19 71
Half: SMG, 32-28