In a pack of taller opponents under the basket, Mount Saint Joseph freshman guard Antonio Hamlin came down with a strong defensive rebound and then safely got the ball out to a teammate.
It came with 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter with the No. 8 Gaels protecting a five-point lead in their showdown against No. 3 St. Frances, the last of all the vital plays as the home team prevailed at packed Smith Center on Friday night.
Hamlin got a chest bump from fellow guard Ausar Crawley, delivered with a little extra, and minutes later Mount Saint Joseph had a 66-63 win over the Panthers in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Mount Saint Joseph (24-6) improves to 16-2 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference, claiming the top seed in the Red Division for next week’s playoffs. The Gaels also finished 11-3 in the Baltimore Catholic League.
St. Frances (30-5) also finished 16-2 in the MIAA A’s Red Division, but fall to second place with both losses coming against the Gaels. Junior Jordan Toles surpassed the 1,000-point mark with 13 points for the Panthers, who had already clinched first place in the BCL and finish with a 12-2 mark.
Following Friday’s win, Mount Saint Joseph coach Pat Clatchey said it was defense, a collective team effort and poise that proved the difference as the Gaels led from the start and impressively answered every time the Panthers were close.
Crawley finished with 16 points, Tyler Brelsford added 14 and All-Metro senior James Bishop, who scored 29 when the Gaels claimed a 74-63 win at St. Frances on Dec. 21, finished with 13. Mount Saint Joseph goes into the postseason on a high note.
“You want to be playing your best ball this time of year and we’ve went through some tough losses, we learned from the, we got a good rotation going and we’re playing pretty well right now,” Clatchey said.
With less than one minute left in the first half, the Gaels defense had limited the powerful Panthers offense to only 15 points, a three-point play by Chandler Johnson giving them their biggest lead at 28-15 with 41 seconds left in the half.
But the Panthers made good use of the final seconds, scoring seven points with Toles’ three-point play dramatically cutting the lead to 28-22 at the break.
Even after the Panthers scored the opening basket in the third quarter to cut the advantage to 28-24, the Gaels responded and that became routing the rest of the way. In the third quarter, the home team got 3-pointers from four players to hold onto the lead.
In the fourth, junior Javonte Brown had two monstrous dunks, Crawley hit a key jumper and the Gaels ended up making 21 of 27 free throws to help seal the win.
“We beat them earlier, so we knew they were going to come out hungry. So we just had to play as a team. We just played a real good team game and won,” said Crawley. “We’re a battle-tested team. We may be young, but we’re battle tested and know how to close out games and we showed that.”
In addition to Toles, three more Panthers finished in double figures led by Adrian Baldwin’s 15 points. Rajeir Jones finished with 13, while Jason Murphy had 10.
8 Mount Saint Joseph 66, 3 St. Frances 63
SF – Jones 13, Baldwin 15, Murphy 10, West 5, Toles 13, Alexander 3, Brown 2, Staten 2. Totals: 18 21-31 63
MSJ – Crawley 16, Bishop 13, Brelsford 14, Sykes 2, Brown 6, Hamlin 5, Chairs 7, Johnson 3. Totals: 19 21-27 66
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Half: MCJ, 28-22