Mount Saint Joseph basketball newcomer Amani Hansberry didn’t hesitate when asked what he’s enjoyed most about his early days playing for the Gaels.
“My teammates,” said the 6-foot-8 junior transfer from Washington power St. John’s. “It’s a blast being with them on and off the court. They have respect for me and I have respect for them, so I feel like that creates some good chemistry.”
That has shown up early this season and particularly in Friday night’s showdown at No. 1 John Carroll. Hansberry led four Gaels in double figures with 19 points and showed a smooth all-around game in leading the visitors to a stunningly comfortable 71-50 win over the defending Baltimore Catholic League champions.
No. 3 Mount Saint Joseph, which was without injured standout Bryson Tucker (hip) for a third straight game, improved to 8-0 on the season and 3-0 in BCL play. Sean Clark and Austin Abrams scored 15 points and Aidan Mess added 10.
“We’ve been playing well. We got some games under our belt and guys are kind of playing into their roles,” Gaels coach Pat Clatchey said. “It was a team effort and I was just proud of the guys. It was our first real road test and we responded to the challenge.”
Hansberry set an early tone at both ends, scoring 15 of his points in the first half to go with four rebounds, two steals and two assists as the Gaels built a 39-23 halftime lead.
When the Patriots (2-3) made a run to cut the lead to 46-36 with 2:43 left in the third quarter, Clatchey called timeout and the Gaels responded. Clark, who played a solid game defensively, hit a 3-pointer on the Gaels’ next possession to start a 20-4 run that put the game away by the middle of the fourth.
With a week off, Clatchey said the Gaels, who are averaging 78 points per game, will rest comfortably with the 8-0 start knowing there’s a long ways to go. Tucker is expected back soon. Mount Saint Joseph will travel to Archbishop Wood’s Diane Mosco Foundation Shootout in Warminster, Pennsylvania, on Dec. 18, taking on Philadelphia power Imhotep Charter at 6:30 p.m.
Hansberry has been impressed with the team’s positive energy.
“It started off smooth. We definitely hit some adversity but we just try to keep working, fix up the little things and keep pushing,” he said.
In last year’s condensed season, the Patriots started out with a 2-5 mark before stringing together nine straight wins on their way to the BCL title as the tournament’s sixth seed. Off to another slow start, coach Seth Goldberg believes it’s just a matter of the team finding its identity. Cesar Tchilombo scored 15 points and Tyson Commander added 14 in Friday’s setback.
“We got to figure out how to be us consistently and that’s just where we are right now. Hats off to them, they played well and we’ve got to continue to work on getting consistent in things that we value — be tough and be together. We’ll get there,” Goldberg said.
John Carroll heads back to the court Saturday when they take on National Christian Academy at the Morgan Wootten Classic. Game time is set for 4:45 p.m. at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, Virginia.
MSJ – Abrams 15, Hansberry 19, Mess 10, Valentine 9, Clark 15, Jones 2, Farrell 1. Totals: 2611-14 71
JC – Commander 14, Basima 11, Tchilombo 15, Vaughn 5, Romain 1, Smith 2, Perkovich 2. Totals: 18 8-12 50
Half: MSJ, 39-23