Mount Saint Joseph point guard Ausar Crawley hit back-to-back 3-pointers entering the fourth quarter against visiting Archbishop Spalding in Thursday’s Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinal.
After he opened the fourth with another, fellow guard Tyler Brelsford did his part from the outside while forward Jason Edokpayi was relentless inside.
The three seniors brought plenty of playoff experience, something young Spalding couldn’t match as the No. 3 Gaels pulled away for a 55-43 home win.
Edokpayi led the way with a double double, scoring 16 points and adding 14 rebounds, with Crawley (11 points) and D’Angelo Stines (10 points) also scoring in double digits.
Mount Saint Joseph (26-5) will make its third straight appearance in the A Conference championship game and will take on No. 1 St. Frances, a 98-71 winner over John Carroll, on Sunday in a rematch of last year’s title game. Opening tip is 5:30 p.m. at Harford Community College.
In early foul trouble and without a point until late in the third quarter, Crawley found his form when it was needed most.
His second straight 3 with 34 seconds left in the third quarter provided a 33-30 advantage and he hit another from further away on the Gaels’ opening possession of the fourth.
In a low-scoring, tightly contested struggle, the 36-30 advantage was big, and his fellow seniors helped make sure the lead was protected.
“I knew I had to keep my head in the game and knew I was going to make an impact. Once I got in, I did what I was supposed to do,” said Crawley, who also hit two free throws with 13 seconds left in the Gaels’ 65-63 win over St. Vincent Pallotti in the quarterfinals.
“I’m a three-year varsity player and this was nothing new to me. I knew how to handle it and we came away with the win.”
The Cavaliers, who was starting one junior and four sophomores, didn’t have the same kind of shooting night they enjoyed in their 67-56 win at Mount Saint Joseph during the regular season Feb. 5.
Sophomore standout Cameron Whitmore, whose 34-point performance led the Cavaliers to a 89-85 win at Gilman in Tuesday’s quarterfinal round, was in foul trouble early Thursday and never found his rhythm as he only made three field goals in finishing with a team-high 12 points.
Still, when Jordan Pennick (11 points) hit a 3-pointer with 3:51 to play, the Cavaliers were within striking distance, trailing 40-38.
The Gaels made sure to have the final say, as D’Angelo Stines hit a 3-pointer on the next possession to start a clinching 13-1 run. Crawley added a baseline drive, Brelsford connected on a 3 and Edokpayi converted a three-point play in the stretch to send the home team to the championship game.
“It’s good to have guys that have been through the tight games,” Mount Saint Joseph coach Pat Clatchey said. “Once we got the lead in the middle of the fourth, we went zone, stopped fouling and made them take time off the clock.”
Spalding (18-11) turns its attention on next week’s Baltimore Catholic League tournament, which starts Wednesday. The Cavaliers are the No. 3 seed and will host sixth-seeded Mount Carmel at 7 p.m.
The teams split their two regular-season games, with both road teams claiming wins. Spalding earned a 75-70 win on Dec. 18 before Mount Carmel coasted to a 84-59 victory Feb. 13.
“The best thing is we got the Baltimore Catholic League tournament so our season isn’t over. Everything is a learning experience, and we got to learn from it and bounce back from it,” Spalding first-year coach Josh Pratt said.
“We could have executed a little better on the offensive end … we kind of took too many shots and were playing too much defense. But we didn’t quit. We hit the 3 and then they came right back. I just think it’s a learning experience, and you have to give Mount Saint Joe credit tonight.”
AS – Whitmore 12, Scott 10, Peterson 10, Pennick 11. Totals: 13 13-23 43
MSJ – Brelsford 6, Edokpayi 16, Crawley 11, Carr 1, Stines 10, Hamlin 9. Totals: 17 14-20 55
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