The emergence of John Carroll sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley this season made it an easy call for coach Tony Martin when the Patriots were down two points to Mount Saint Joseph with 20 seconds left in Monday's 45th Baltimore Catholic League championship game.
During a timeout, Martin said Quickley would be the first option and made sure to mention he would be the second option as well. Quickley confidently declared if he was open he would not only shoot it, but make it.
With the ball behind the 3-point line with the seconds winding down, Quickley shook his defender, squared up and found nothing but net with 1.4 seconds left to give the No. 4 Patriots a thrilling 51-50 win over the No. 2 Gaels at Towson University's SECU Arena.
Quickley, who was named the BCL's Co-Player of the Year for the regular season, scored a game-high 16 points and was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
Last season, he was a valuable role player as a freshman as John Carroll ended up on the disappointing side of another thriller in the league's championship game, falling to Calvert Hall, 53-52, at the buzzer.
This time, it was the Patriots (25-10) turn to shine with Quickley taking center stage.
"I told Coach to give me the ball and I would knock it down. My teammates and coach had trust in me and I was happy to go out there and knock down the shot," he said. "It's been unbelievable. The team was unbelievable and we showed great heart, great fight. We started down early but the team showed great resiliency and we got the win. We stuck together in the tough times, Mount Saint Joe made some tough shots and we just stayed together."
It's the second tournament championship for the Patriots, who dominated Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champion St. Frances, 60-33, in Sunday's semifinal round.
Things didn't come as easy Monday against the Gaels (31-5), who beat the Patriots twice during the regular season and entered the game following a 93-51 win over Calvert Hall.
Mount Saint Joseph jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first quarter, only to see the Patriots climb back to tie it at the half. The Gaels jumped out in front again in the third quarter before the Patriots got their first lead when senior forward Michael Tertsea converted a three-point play with 1:08 left in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter came down to gritty survival – filled with intensity, nerves and defense.
The Patriots tied the game at 46 and 48 in the final two minutes before Mount Saint Joseph sophomore forward Jalen Smith's stickback with 28 seconds left gave the Gaels a 50-48 lead.
After Quickley struggled to get off a shot early in the Patriots' final possession — strong defense dictated play throughout the game — he was finally able to find the needed time and space to become the hero.
"You think about last year, he was a role player — a very talented role player — but behind [graduated seniors Kimbal Mackenize and Elijah Long], he was willing to let them lead," Martin said. "I think he showed some nerves at times as a freshman, his body was a little more frail, but he's filled out some and his maturity has grown and his confidence is tremendous. He's obviously very special."
Named to the BCL All-Tournament team were: John Carroll senior Nemanja Knezevic, who scored nine of his 11 points in the first half on Monday to help the Patriots get settled; Mount St. Joseph's Darryl Morsell and Randy Miller; St. Frances' Kurk Lee, Jr., and Calvert Hall's Brendan Adams.
Sophomore guard Junior Farquhar scored 12 points for the Patriots, who also got nine points and strong inside defense from Tertsea.
Miller led Mount Saint Joseph with 14 points, while Morsell added 12. It was the second championship game loss for the Gaels, who fell to St. Frances in the MIAA final two weeks ago.
"We were excited to be back in the championship," Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey said. "The effort was good, just wasn't good enough. We got a lead, had a great defensive possession, got scrambled and the kid made a helluva shot."