Through all the ups and downs this condensed season has brought for the John Carroll basketball team, the Patriots have stayed true to who they are. Their team motto is “Just be us, and have fun.”
It took a while in Wednesday night’s Baltimore Catholic League semifinal against Archbishop Spalding — the Patriots fell behind by 14 points well into the second quarter — but they found a way to claim a 69-66 win over the Cavaliers.
John Carroll, seeded sixth with a 10-5 mark, will take on top-seeded and undefeated St. Frances (15-0) — a 68-49 winner over Mount Carmel in Wednesday’s other semifinal — in the championship game Friday set for 6 p.m. at Calvert Hall.
The Patriots — who lost to the three-time defending champion Panthers, 82-64, during the regular-season — will be making their fifth BCL championship game appearance in search of the program’s third crown.
On Wednesday, Tyson Commander (20 points), Jeannot Basima (19 points) and Jalen Bryant (15 points) took turns taking over to claim the victory. Bryant’s two free throws with 16 seconds left pushed the lead to 69-64. After Cam Whitmore cut the lead to 69-66 with eight seconds left, the Cavaliers sent John Carroll’s TJ Vaughn to the free-throw line for a one-and-one opportunity with four seconds left. His miss gave the Cavaliers one last chance, but CJ Scott’s midcourt heave was well off.
“Just really proud of our guys. We really stayed together; even in the toughest moments we found a way to be tough together and have fun,” John Carroll coach Seth Goldberg said.
Unlike Monday’s 67-65 upset win over third-seeded Mount Saint Joseph, when the Patriots started fast in building a 28-point lead, the shots weren’t falling early on Wednesday with the second-seeded Cavaliers (12-3) staking a 26-12 advantage with under three minutes to play in the first half.
But John Carroll made good use of the remaining minutes of the second quarter — closing with a 13-0 run behind Basima, who scored 15 in the half. The Patriots still trailed, 26-25, but felt plenty good going into the second half.
Their first lead since the game’s opening minutes would come on a Bryant score in transition — making it 30-28 with 6:19 left in the third quarter. An 8-0 run at the end of the third quarter — 3-pointers from Vaughn and Commander followed by a basket in transition by Basima — gave the Patriots a 47-38 lead going into the fourth.
Behind Ty Peterson’s nine fourth-quarter points, the Cavaliers would get within 56-55 with 4:32 to play, only to see the Patriots have the answers down the stretch. Commander hit a long 3 from the top of the key to make it 59-55 and Jaiden Jakubowski hit a 3 later to increase the lead to 64-57 with 2:37 left. The Patriots made five free throws in the closing minute to secure the win, none bigger than Bryant’s pair with 16 seconds left.
Whitmore, the BCL Player of the Year, and Peterson shared game-high honors with 21 points for the Cavaliers, who finished the season with a 12-3 mark.
“Disappointment really, but we fought hard” Spalding coach Josh Pratt said. “Rebounds, free throws and turnovers — I say it all the time. We got to be able to hit free throws [22 of 35] and we got to be able to finish. We got a little frustrated toward the end of the second quarter — it was us. It wasn’t really anything but our mentality and our mindset and that’s something we have to learn from. We have a lot of guys coming back and we just got to focus, get better and it’s just kind of part of the process I guess.”
Outside of undefeated St. Frances, John Carroll was the hottest team entering the playoffs. The Patriots continued the trend with a 67-65 upset win at third-seeded Mount Saint Joseph in Monday’s quarterfinal round, and won their eighth straight Wednesday.