All season, one of the mottos for the young John Carroll boys basketball team has been to always have fun playing together.
That might seem easy enough, but there have been plenty of trying moments for the No. 13 Patriots.
Tuesday’s Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference quarterfinal at Boys’ Latin was the latest.
With the host Lakers surging midway through the fourth quarter, John Carroll sophomore guard Tyson Commander hit two vital 3-pointers. And then junior guard Jalen Bryant made two clutch free throws. And then the Patriots defense came together to get just enough stops to pull out a 57-54 win over the Lakers to advance to Thursday’s semifinals.
Commander finished with a team-high 17 points, helping offset a 25-point performance from Lakers senior guard Lorenzo Donadio.
John Carroll improved to 22-10 and will take on No. 1 St. Frances on Thursday after the Panthers defeated Glenelg Country, 80-56, on Tuesday night.
“Our big thing has always been enjoy the moments. They really care about each other and it was great for us to be in a dogfight on the road and find a way to get it done,” John Carroll coach Seth Goldberg said. “We didn’t shoot the ball very well — and that’s OK — we defended and we were tough. Also, hats off to BL — they’re tough. Lorenzo is a heck of a player and [Boys’ Latin coach] Cliff [Rees] does a great job, so I’m really proud of our guys that we were tough down the stretch and found a way to make it happen.”
After a low-scoring first half that ended with the score tied at 20, the game opened up, with the Patriots taking a 38-33 lead late in the third quarter.
But Donadio found his touch to keep the Lakers close, scoring 13 points in the third quarter. His free throw with 3:42 to play gave the Lakers with their first lead since hitting the game’s first basket.
Commander, who was named to the All-Baltimore Catholic League’s first team Monday, showed why he earned the honor in the closing minutes. After tying the score with a free throw, he followed with his first 3-pointer on the next possession as the Patriots reclaimed a 52-49 lead. His second 3 came with 1:45 to play for a 55-51 advantage before Bryant hit two free throws and the Patriots got two stops in the closing seconds after the Lakers had pulled within 57-54.
Donadio’s contested 3 from the right baseline hit the front of the rim with .08 of a second left, and Kendall Walker (13 points) couldn’t find the mark on a another 3-point try at the buzzer.
“The key down the stretch was just staying together,” Commander said. “We had some tough calls, missed shots and weren’t scoring. But we had to stay together and if we stay together we know we’ll win.”
Goldberg wasn’t surprised to see Commander step up when the Patriots needed it most.
“What’s great about Tyson is you get a lot of guys who can score and that’s all they can do, but … that’s not him," Goldberg said. "Some nights, if it’s not going, he’s defending, he’s sharing it, and he’s every bit a part of this team in a way we need him to be. So tonight, when we needed him to score, that’s what he did for us.”
Boys’ Latin closed the season with a 14-13 mark, enjoying an eight-game win streak in the middle of the season. Going up against the bigger Patriots on Tuesday, the Lakers did well to defend and box out on rebounds, but their shooting — a team strength all season — took a dip, which proved costly.
“It was a heck of a game and I thought our guys battled all night,” Rees said. “We struggled early with their zone, but made adjustments to get back in it. With their size advantage, our kids really scrapped. I told the kids after the game, I don’t think I could have asked for more from them the way they fought and scrapped and played just about everybody tough.”
JC – Jakubowski 6, Tchilombo 5, Bryant 9, Commander 17, Basima 8, Long 2, Vaughn 6, Turay 4. Totals: 22 7-13 57
BL – Donadio 25, Spencer 2, Walker 13, Green 8, Schell 6. Totals: 22 5-9 54
No. 1 St. Frances 80, Glenelg Country 56: The Panthers took charge from the onset, leading by 20 at the half and rolling to Thursday’s semifinals behind a 23-point performance from senior Julian Reese.
Adrian “Ace” Baldwin added 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists while Jamal West chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds for St. Frances.
St. Frances will host No. 13 John Carroll at 7 p.m. on Thursday for the right to play in Sunday’s league championship game. St. Frances won both meetings against John Carroll during the regular season, claiming a 81-60 win on Jan. 19 at home before traveling to Bel Air for 93-70 victory on Jan. 31.
Glenelg Country finished its season with a 13-13 mark.
Chapelgate Christian 74, Severn 61: Lance Richards scored a game-high 23 points to lead the host Yellow Jackets (15-17) over the Admirals (10-16) in an MIAA B Conference quarterfinal. Friends (17-10) beat Indian Creek (8-15), 57-47, in another B Conference quarterfinal.