Mount St. Joseph senior guard Jordan McNeil sank two free throws with less than one second left in the fourth quarter to tie Calvert Hall in an epic Baltimore Catholic League championship game Monday night at UMBC's RAC Arena.
But McNeil was far from finished.
With the No. 2 Gaels still needing points to separate themselves from the No. 4 Cardinals, who wouldn't budge all game, McNeil had an answer with the game tied for the final time. He nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 13 seconds left in overtime and when Nico Clareth's 3-point try at the other end missed at the buzzer, Mount St. Joseph secured a third straight BCL championship with a classic 72-69 win over Calvert Hall.
Senior Phil Booth scored a game-high 28 points to earn the tournament's Most Valuable Player. McNeil and fellow senior Jaylen Adams each scored 18 points and were named to the All-BCL tournament team with Calvert Hall juniors Drew Edwards (22 points) Evan Phoenix (17) and Nico Clareth (13). It was Mount St. Joseph's sixth title in 12 years under coach Pat Clatchey.
First things first, and that was the two free throws from McNeil to send the game into overtime for the first time in BCL history.
"No. I always work on that, like down 1, down 2, down 3 and I just do what I do," he said.
And how about the deciding 3-pointer in overtime?
"I was in rhythm, I put it up and it went in," he said.
All season, the Gaels (32-4) have been able to turn to their three standout seniors to lead them to wins. McNeil hit four free throws in the final seconds against Mount Carmel to escape in Friday's quarterfinal game. Adams had the big scoring game in Sunday's semifinal win over St. Frances with 28 points. And Booth has been the do-it-all leader all along.
"We didn't give up on ourselves, we knew we could pull it out the whole time, we just kept fighting. We got some big stops when we needed them and Jordan made some free throws to win the game for us." Booth said.
After trailing by as many as nine points in the second quarter, the experienced Gaels finally looked like they were ready to take hold of the game with a big third quarter. With Booth getting to the basket, Adams chipping in and McNeil hitting 3-pointers, Mount St. Joseph also got some regular stops on defense to take a 46-40 lead with 11 seconds left in the quarter.
The Cardinals, stockpiled with the juniors that were new to the BCL championship game, didn't rattle.
Edwards hit a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter and Phoenix, dominant inside throughout the game, opened the fourth quarter by converting a three-point play to tie the game. There would be four more ties and three lead changes in a tightly-contested fourth quarter that ended with, the Gaels trailing 60-58, and McNeil tracking down a miss to the right of the basket and putting up a desperate shot while falling while getting fouled. Having missed one of two free throws with 32 seconds left, he stepped to the line, took a couple deep breaths and calmly hit the shots.
In the final minute of overtime, Edwards hit another 3-pointer to tie the game at 69 with 46 second left before McNeil had the one last big shot left.
Despite the setback, Calvert Hall (28-6) made significant strides this season with a junior laden roster after going 13-16 last year. The Cardinals will likely be the favorites in the BCL and Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association's A Conference next season and they aren't finished this season with a prized invite to the prestigious Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament set to start on March 13 at Frostburg State University.
"It was a great effort. We came out today ready to play and I was proud how we came out trying to be the aggressor and we just did an awesome job against a great team. We stood toe to toe with them and came up a tiny bit short," Calvert Hall coach John Bauersfeld said.