One by one, the St. Frances boys basketball team has successfully taken on all challengers during this abbreviated season. The Panthers lean on their defense and depth, with several players capable of taking on the lead role on any given night.
On a night St. Frances celebrated its nine seniors, it was guard Byron Ireland who had the big scoring night — with plenty of help.
The senior scored a game-high 25 points Monday night to help St. Frances pull away from visiting Mount Carmel early in coasting to a 82-59 win to improve to 12-0 on the season.
Fellow seniors Khyrie Staten (eight points, eight rebounds, five assists) and Elijah Davis (eight points) also had big moments, while junior reserve forward Cortez Johnson (14 points, five rebounds) provided quality minutes as senior standout Julian Reese dealt with foul trouble throughout the game.
St. Frances improved to 11-0 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and 6-0 in Baltimore Catholic League, while Mount Carmel (11-2) fell to 9-2 in the MIAA and 4-2 in the BCL.
“I don’t think a lot of people know how good our guys are because there are so many of them and we come in waves,” St. Frances coach Nick Myles said. “We’re just blessed to have a lot of guys. We got nine seniors that have committed themselves to this program and this is what you get on Senior Night.”
Senior Tevin Curtis scored all seven of his points in the first quarter to help offset a hot start from Mount Carmel junior Deon Perry, whose second 3-pointer gave the visitors a 10-9 lead with 4:56 to play.
With Ireland scoring 10 points later in the quarter, the Panthers took a 25-19 lead into the second quarter and used harassing defense that often turned into easy points at the other end to pull away by halftime.
Leading 35-27, the Panthers got two straight baskets from Staten — a steal and layup followed by another easy lay-in off a long outlet pass from freshman Derick Queen — before a Daquan Davis 3-pointer put them ahead 44-27 at the break. Ireland helped keep them there with 15 second-half points, including a dunk off a steal and three 3-pointers.
“It started with my teammates tonight — they were getting me open looks tonight,” Ireland said.” We’re just taking it one game at a time and focusing on each team. We got a lot of talent, a lot of good players – we just have a really good team.”
As far as enjoying the fine performance on Senior Night?
“Yeah, I didn’t think my Senior Night would be like this because we have a lot of seniors, so I just thought I’d try to get mine and then you just keep going,” he said.
After a thrilling 80-79 home win over Archbishop Spalding, Mount Carmel wasn’t able to carry the momentum into Monday’s game. The Cougars got a team-high 21 points from Toby Nnadozie and Perry finished with 15. Too many defensive lapses did them in.
“The first quarter, we were kind of trading baskets and you really can’t do that — it’s not sustainable when you’re playing St. Frances,” Mount Carmel coach Trevor Quinn said. “The thing that hurt us the most was transition defense. In the second quarter, I don’t know, they had like six run-outs for layups and you just can’t defend that.”
The regular season concludes Wednesday for both teams. While Mount Carmel travels to John Carroll at 5 p.m., St. Frances hosts Mount Saint Joseph in a rematch of last year’s MIAA and BCL title games. The teams split the two meetings.
The BCL playoffs begin next week, and Myles is happy with how his Panthers are playing.
“You want to play your best basketball for the playoffs, and I think as long as we share the ball and defend — that’s our best basketball,” he said. “And Mount Saint Joseph-St. Frances is what it is. It’s the best rivalry in Baltimore basketball and I can’t wait for Wednesday night at 7 o’clock.”
MC — Nnadozie 21, K. Kalu 7, Perry 15, Dixon 4, M. Kalu 1, Chinnia 2, Gudonis 9. Totals: 23 6-9 59
SF — Staten 8, Queen 6, Reese 2, Lamothe 2, E. Davis 8, Ireland 25, D. Davis 5, Curtis 7, Johnson 14, Taylor 3, Jones 2. Totals: 39 3-4 82
Half: MC, 46-34