The St. Mary's girls basketball team proved two things while winning the Noel Classic at Archbishop Spalding during the weekend.
First of all, the Saints showed they were capable of defeating strong competition without All-Metro forward Laura Coakley. Secondly, St. Mary's proved it could win a close game in the Noel Classic -- the Saints were eliminated in the semifinals the past two years by a total of five points.
St. Mary's (7-5) edged No. 6 Old Mill (8-1), 43-41, in the championship game Saturday night.
The Saints led by seven points with 1 minute, 47 seconds left in the game, and were ahead, 43-38, with 1:06 remaining.
Old Mill rallied, however, and was in a position to send the game into overtime. But the Patriots' Stacy Himes missed two free throws with no time remaining.
St. Mary's coach Carmine Blades wasn't around to see the finish. He said he left at the beginning of the third quarter after experiencing chest pains and did not return until the game was over.
Winning the Noel Classic seemed unlikely for the Saints without Coakley, who averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds last season. Coakley, who has signed a letter of intent to attend Wake Forest next fall, may miss the rest of the season with cartilage and ligament damage to her knee, Blades said.
St. Mary's struggled in its first six games without Coakley and lost four straight during that stretch. A 33-29 win over then-No. 10 Broadneck on Dec. 21 seemed to revive the Saints.
"The win over Broadneck was really the turning point," Blades said. "Their confidence level really went up after that."
In last year's Noel Classic semifinals, St. Mary's was upset by Spalding, 53-52. In a semifinal two years ago, the Saints squandered a 17-point lead in the second half, as Brooklyn Park rallied to a 51-47 victory.
"They really wanted to win this tournament," Blades said. "They were determined to come out and play well."
In other tournament finals played Saturday night:
* Top-ranked Dunbar of Baltimore (11-1) defeated Dunbar of Washington (7-3), 58-45, to win the 42nd annual War Memorial Tournament in Johnstown, Pa. It was the Poets' third win over D.C. Dunbar this season.
Michael Lloyd scored 17 and Donta Bright added 10 points for the Poets.
* Che Evans scored 27 and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead No. 4 Southern of Baltimore (6-3) over Maury (Va.), 74-53, in the Norfolk Catholic Holiday Invitational championship game.
Tournament MVP David Cason contributed 14 points and 14 assists for the Bulldogs, and John Salley added 12 points and 19 rebounds. Evans and Salley were named to the All-Tournament team.
* In the York Catholic Tournament in York, Pa., No. 6 St. Frances (4-3) lost to the host school, 82-66, in the championship game.
St. Frances coach William Wells attributed the loss to bad officiating. St. Frances was charged with 31 fouls, while York Catholic was called for 11.
"I don't feel bad knowing we really didn't lose it," Wells said. "I really felt we were robbed."
Guard Eric Carroll (23 points) and forward Mike Smith fouled out for St. Frances.