For the St. Frances boys basketball team, success this season always begins at practice.
It’s where the deep Panthers get some of their toughest challenges, a time when precious game minutes are earned.
When tipoff rolls around, every player is ready, and even more hungry, when his time comes.
In defeating its fiercest rival Mount Saint Joseph on Wednesday night, 78-67, St. Frances completed the condensed regular season at 13-0 with an average margin of victory of 30 points.
On Wednesday, freshman center Derik Queen took the lead role with 23 points and seven rebounds, while Jahnathan Lamothe (13 points), Daquan Davis (13 points) and Cortez Johnson (12 points) also reached double figures. The Panthers swept the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference (12-0) and Baltimore Catholic League (7-0) regular-season titles in bold fashion.
“It was what we had on the list, and we checked it off,” Lamothe said. “I feel like our practices really helped us because we practice hard every day and we are able to show it off out on the court. None of the teams can stay with us for four quarters.”
With the MIAA not having a postseason because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the teams will jump right into the BCL playoffs, which begin Monday with the quarterfinal round. Top-seed St. Frances will host eighth-seeded Calvert Hall, while Mount Saint Joseph (10-2, 9-2 in MIAA, 5-2 in BCL) dropped to the third seed and will host sixth-seeded John Carroll. Both games are set for 6 p.m.
In Monday’s other quarterfinal games, second-seeded Archbishop Spalding hosts seventh-seeded St. Maria Goretti and fourth-seeded Mount Carmel hosts fifth-seeded Loyola Blakefield, with both games at 6 p.m.
The Panthers closed the first quarter with the last six points, including four from Lamothe, to take their biggest lead at 22-14.
After the Gaels closed within 22-20, the Panthers’ depth took over with a 15-2 run that provided a double-digit lead that was never relinquished.
Coming off the bench, Davis hit a 3-pointer, Queen scored in the paint and reserve Tevin Curtis scored in transition before Johnson made it 31-20 with 4:12 left in the half.
The Panthers defeated all 13 opponents by double-digits in winning the program’s 11th regular-season BCL title, a league record.
“Historic accomplishment,” St. Frances coach Nick Myles said. “I’m glad [former St. Frances] Coach [William] Wells was here to see it. Coach is definitely the person who helped me get this position, so that’s special for him and special for me. Through it all, through this pandemic, it’s been a great year and just excited about the playoffs.”
The Gaels got a stellar performance from senior forward Sean Carr, who scored a game-high 25 points. Coach Pat Clatchey felt his team would have to keep the score low to have a chance to leave St. Frances with a win, but the Panthers’ fast start and depth won out.
“I told our guys before the game it would be very disadvantageous to us if the score was in the 70s. I told them if they are scoring in the 70s, it’s going to be tough for us to win. We just weren’t able to do it,” he said. “We got off to a bad start defensively, dug ourselves a hole and it just seemed like we were doing that that the entire night.
“I think the biggest difference is they have a lot of guys that can score. They just have multiple guys that are dangerous scorers and Derik Queen obviously poses some issues for your defense as well.”
MSJ — Stines 13, Tucker 13, Carr 25, Crawley 13, Valentine 3. Totals: 26 8-10 67
SF — Staten 5, Queen 23, Reese 2, Lamothe 13, Ireland 6, D. Davis 13, Curtis 4, Johnson 12. Totals: 29 11-12 78
Latest High School sports
Half: SF, 37-24