Mount Saint Joseph gets by St. Maria Goretti, 54-51, to advance to BCL championship game

Senior forward Jalen Smith scored seven of his game-high 23 points and junior guard James Bishop added 21 to lead No. 4 Mount Saint Joseph to a 54-51 win over St. Maria Goretti in the Baltimore Catholic League semifinals Saturday at Goucher College.

The Gaels (30-5) will get a chance to defend last year’s championship Sunday against St. Frances. Game time is set for 3 p.m. at Goucher.

After claiming two double-digit wins over Goretti in the regular season, Mount Saint Joseph had to watch a potential tying 3-pointer by RJ Blakney miss the mark at the buzzer before knowing the win was secure.

“We had to buckle down. Once we started hitting our shots and started rolling, our team chemistry started building up. We were good,” said Smith, who provided the big difference in the fourth quarter.

Midway through, he hit three straight baskets and also altered a shot on defense to help give the Gaels a 52-46 advantage with 1:27 to play.

But misses at the free-throw line gave Goretti a chance at the end. Bishop and Smith both missed front ends of one-and-ones and then each made just one free throw on other trips at the line in the closing minute.

With less than three seconds to play and the lead at two, Smith made one foul shot to give Blakney (16 points) a chance to tie.

Smith and the Gaels now have their sights on the program’s eighth BCL tournament crown, which would be a record. They, along with St. Frances, currently have seven titles.

“It’s going to take a lot. It’s going to take a lot of focus and a lot of preparation,” Smith said.

SMG — Mack 6, Golek 10, Blakney 16, Tsimbilia 17, Rogers 2. Totals: 19 10-15 51

MSJ — Myers 3, Bishop 21, J. Smith 23, McMillan 7. Totals: 21 6-12 54

Half: MSJ, 28-25

No. 3 St. Frances 70, No. 1 John Carroll 53: The Panthers jumped out to a stunning 25-5 lead after one quarter and never looked back thanks to a balanced offense and strong team defense. Junior guard Rajeir Jones scored 16 points, Koran Moore added 12 and Elijah Epps had 11 for the Panthers, who will meet Mount Saint Joseph in Sunday’s title game at 3 p.m. St. Frances, the top seed which was upset by Boys’ Latin in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinals, beat Mount Saint Joseph in both regular-season meetings.

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