In the fourth quarter of the 48th Baltimore Catholic League basketball championship game Tuesday night, St. Frances junior point guard Adrian Baldwin did just about everything to keep the Panthers close against St. Maria Goretti.
And when it was time to close out the victory, the All-Metro standout was there again in the biggest way.
With the game tied and nine seconds left, the ball found Baldwin and he did the rest, finding space along the left side of the court and hitting an off-balance 3-pointer at the buzzer, pushing the Panthers past the Gaels, 71-68, at Loyola Maryland’s Reitz Arena.
Baldwin finished with 25 points, eight assists, seven steals and six rebounds to be named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Joining him on the All-BCL tournament team were teammate Jamal West, who scored 28 points and added nine rebounds Tuesday, St. Maria Goretti's Abdou Tsimbila and RJ Blakney and Mount Saint Joseph’s James Bishop.
It’s the second straight BCL championship for the Panthers (36-5) and their league-record ninth overall, adding to their Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference crown Feb. 24.
Asked what his mindset was when the game was tied with nine seconds left, Baldwin was quick with his response.
“We’re going to win it. We’re going to win it,” he said.
“This is a great experience,” he added. “I’m just happy right now and don’t know what to say right now. We just won back-to-back championships and made history.”
St. Maria Goretti (28-7), which got 17 points from Blakney and 15 points and 12 rebounds from Tsimbila, led for most of the game, taking a nine-point lead in the second quarter and a 10-point lead late in the third quarter.
But the Panthers fought back. A 16-3 run to start the fourth quarter sparked by Baldwin and West gave St. Frances its first lead since early in the first quarter at 63-58 with 2:53 to play.
But work remained.
After Rahsaan Edwards hit two free throws with nine seconds left to tie the game at 68, the Panthers inbounded the ball to Rajeir Jones, who got the ball upcourt before handng the ball off to Baldwin on the left side.
The buzzer-beating 3-pointer was reminiscent of a last-second 3 by John Carroll’s Immanuel Quickley that beat Mount Saint Joseph for the BCL title in 2016.
The game-winning basket completed Baldwin’s fourth quarter stat line: 11 points, five assists, four steals and two rebounds.
While Baldwin was the fourth-quarter spark, West was the team’s constant with strong inside play to offset the fine performance the Gaels got from Tsimbila. West scored six points in the first and second quarters, four in the third and was also vital in the fourth, adding seven points, including the go-ahead basket with 27 seconds left that made it 68-66.
“We had a game plan for everything and we knew we just knew we had to come together and stay strong,” West said. “The closer we are, the stronger we are. Man, I can’t even explain the feeling.”
Jordan Toles finished with 10 points, including consecutive key baskets in the fourth quarter, while Chad Brown did a fine job defensively on Blakney.
Both teams return to the court Thursday at the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament at Frostburg State.
St. Maria Goretti will be up first in the tournament’s opening day, taking on St. John’s at 4 p.m. with St. Frances taking on DeMatha at 5:15. Mount Saint Joseph opens against Paul VI at 9:15 p.m. The tournament runs through Saturday with the championship game set for 8:30 p.m.
SMG – Searcy 7, Edwards 6, Blakney 17, Tsimbila 15, Golek 14, McClain 2, Rogers 5. Totals: 28 18-25 68
SF – Baldwin 25, Jones 4, Murphy 1, West 28, Toles 10, Brown 3. Totals: 30 14-17 71
Half: SMG, 35-34