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Baldwin, West lead St. Frances past Mount St. Joseph, 77-61, for MIAA A Conference basketball title

Baldwin, West lead St. Frances past Mount St. Joseph, 77-61, for MIAA A Conference basketball title
From left, St. Frances' Jordan Toles, Adrian Baldwin and Rajeir Jones celebrate their victory over Mount Saint Joseph in the MIAA A Conference basketball championship game at APGFCU Arena at Harford Community College. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

One of the biggest reasons junior forward Jamal West transferred to St. Frances this season was the chance to play with junior point guard Adrian Baldwin.

In the second half of Sunday’s Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship game against Mount Saint Joseph, the duo did more than play — they dominated in leading the No. 5 Panthers to a 77-61 win over the No. 4 Gaels at Harford Community College.

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Baldwin finished with 28 points and six assists, while West added 23 points and 11 rebounds, with the two combining to score 33 second-half points to bring the Panthers back from a six-point halftime deficit.

It’s the fifth MIAA A crown for the Panthers, who will go into next week’s Baltimore Catholic League tournament with a 33-5 mark. Mount Saint Joseph, which got 28 points from senior guard James Bishop, is 26-7.

“I don’t know what to say right now, it’s just a great experience,” Baldwin said. “Me as a leader of the team, it’s just a great feeling. Assistant coach Bernie [Vaughn] told me once we get the lead, it’s going to be over.”

Mount Saint Joseph won both regular-season meetings and had the upper hand in the first half behind Bishop, who scored 15 points to help the Gaels take a 34-28 halftime lead.

The Panthers decided to sit West for most of the second quarter after he was hit with his second foul early. He returned to the game fresh and aggressive with the team’s second-half plan to feed him the ball inside.

He scored seven straight points for the Panthers — a dunk, followed by a three-point play and then a runner to cut the Gaels’ lead to 40-39 with 3:07 to play. The Panthers closed the quarter with two 3s from Baldwin, and a dunk and inside basket from West (Baldwin providing both assists) to take a 51-48 lead into the fourth.

And just like Vaughn told Baldwin, there was no looking back after the Panthers finally took the lead. They went on an 8-2 run to start the fourth quarter, with the pair each accounting for four points to take hold of the championship. At the other end, Chad Brown kept Bishop in check with dogged defense.

West, who opened the playoffs with a 41-point performance in the Panthers’ 104-64 quarterfinal win over Annapolis Area Christian on Tuesday, said the positive vibes with Baldwin have been around for awhile.

“That started in AAU with him. Before I came to this school, it was like ‘I want to play with ‘Ace’ bad,’ ” said West, who led Dunbar to the Class 1A state championship last season before transferring to St. Frances. “I want to play with a good point guard, a pass-first point guard and he wants to get those 10 assists, get that double double in points and assists or rebounds. I love that.”

St. Frances coach Nick Myles applauded another strong team effort, something that carried the Panthers through all three MIAA playoff wins, but was quick to point out Brown’s defensive work on Bishop, who only managed two baskets in the fourth quarter.

“What he did on Bishop was unbelievable,” Myles said. “Bishop is one of the best scorers this league has ever had and for him to contain him and give that defensive effort — I just want to give him the gratitude.”

Sophomore guard Ausar Crawley scored 11 points and freshman Antonio Hamlin came off the bench to add 10 for the Gaels.

Mount Saint Joseph coach Pat Clatchey pointed out the lack of fouls called for his side in a physical second half (the Gaels got to the free-throw line 13 times in the first half and only three times in the second), but gave credit to Baldwin and West for their second-half showing.

“They’re good players, they have a lot of talent,” he said. “We had a stretch where we couldn’t score and we didn’t get stops on the other end. That’s pretty much what it came down to.”

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The teams reached the title game in different fashion with their semifinal wins Thursday. While Mount Saint Joseph needed a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer from Bishop to beat McDonogh, 60-64, in overtime, St. Frances enjoyed a dominant performance at No. 8 Boys’ Latin in an 81-47 win.

The teams return to the court for the Baltimore Catholic League quarterfinals Wednesday, when St. Frances hosts Mount Carmel and Mount Saint Joseph hosts Archbishop Spalding. Both games are set for 7 p.m.

MSJ – Crawley 11, Bishop 28, Brelsford 2, Sykes 2, Brown 2, Hamlin 10, Chairs 4, Carr 2. Totals: 23 12-16 61

SF – Baldwin 28, Jones 4, Murphy 4, West 23, Toles 10, Brown 4, Staten 4. Totals: 25 23-28 77

Half: MSJ, 34-28

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