The Mount St. Joseph boys basketball team has quickly developed a formidable advantage in its new home, The Smith Center.
The No. 5 Gaels won nine straight there going into Wednesday's game against No. 6 St. Frances.
They were dogged in their determination to make it 10 straight.
In front of a lively overflow crowd estimated around 1,500 and behind the strong play of senior guards Phil Booth and Jaylen Adams, along with sophomore forward Daveyon Barnes, Mount St. Joseph took over in the second half to come away with a resounding, 63-48 win over the Panthers.
It's the first time Mount St. Joseph has defeated St. Frances in five games, including a 60-51 loss at St. Frances on Dec. 4.
In that game, it was the Panthers that showed more want at the end of the game to close out a late win. This time, the closing minutes weren't a factor.
Leading 26-22 at the half, the Gaels methodically built a double-digit advantage throughout the third quarter — consecutive 3-pointers from Adams and Jordan McNeil giving them a 37-27 lead with 2:36 to play — and then Booth opened the fourth quarter with a strong drive to the basket followed by an emphatic dunk to set the tone for the rest of the game.
Booth finished with a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds, Adams added 14 points, and Barnes finished with 12 points, 15 rebounds and was dominant on defense, helping limit the Panthers to just seven field goals in the decisive second half.
"We came up big defensively, we rebounded well and got some big baskets in transition," Booth said. "We knew we had to win this game, we were tired of losing to them, so it was a big game for us and we left it all out on the court."
Mount St. Joseph (18-3) moves into a first-place tie with Calvert Hall in the Baltimore Catholic League — both teams are 6-2 in the league — and is now second in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference at 8-2, behind the Cardinals (9-2).
St. Frances (16-6) is now 5-2 in the BCL and 7-2 in the MIAA A.
The Gaels' poor performance from the free throw line in the first half — 4 for 15 — made the halftime score closer than it could have been. Early in the third quarter, Booth hit two straight and then Mount St. Joseph got hot all over the court, while the Panthers were held to just two field goals in scoring nine points in the third quarter.
"That was a team win. We had lost to them four or five times in a row, and we challenged our guys," Gaels coach Pat Clatchey said. "St. Frances is a good team, very talented. But we said enough is enough — this is our home court, and it's a big game."
Sophomore guard Daquan Bracey led St. Frances with 13 points, while senior forward Dwayne Morgan added 11.
5 Mount St. Joseph 63, 6 St. Frances 48
SF – Morgan 9, Richards 11, Robinson 2, Hamilton 8, Bracey 13, Micklos 2, Fulton 3. Totals: 15 15-19 48
MSJ – Barnes 12, McNeil 9, Booth 19, Adams 14, Johnson 3, Doles 2, Doran 2. Totals: 21 16-33 63.
Half: MSJ, 26-22