Junior guard Donte Abron sparked sixth-seeded Mount St. Joseph to a 67-56 quarterfinal upset of No. 3 seed Loyola in the opening round of the Catholic League tournament last night at the Dons' Blakefield Gym.
Abron, a 5-foot-5 junior point guard, scored 21 of his game-high 30 points in the first half, as the Gaels (10-20) opened a 16-point lead in the second quarter and led 36-26 at the half.
After Loyola had battled back to take a one-point lead in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter, Abron, who also had five steals and 10 assists in his superlative performance, and senior forward Brian Dunn, who finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, combined for 11 fourth-quarter points to stave off the eighth-ranked Dons (21-10).
The victory moves the Gaels into the first of two semifinal games in the Catholic League tournament against No. 2 seed Towson Catholic at Loyola College's Reitz Arena tonight at 6:30. Top-seeded Cardinal Gibbons meets Calvert Hall at 8:15.
"Mount St. Joe was very aggressive defensively," said Loyola coach Jerry Savage. "They beat us to the ball and then they hit their threes."
"The early lead was a real confidence booster for us," said Gaels coach Pat Maggio. "But even though we didn't shoot well in the third quarter, we passed the ball and used some time. And we got some big plays in the fourth quarter, like we did when we won [at Mount St. Joseph]. This really turns the season around for our seniors especially."
Loyola got a 20-point performance from Jerry Hunt and 14 from Warren Parker, but the Dons were pressured into numerous turnovers.
The Gaels came out firing nothing but bull's-eyes, opening a 9-0 lead in just over two minutes of the first quarter. Abron opened the game with two baskets, Tim Trotta added a short banker and Brian Dunn's three-pointer forced Savage to call for time with 5:42 remaining in the first quarter.
After Loyola had cut the lead to 9-6, the Gaels went on another run, expanding the lead to 23-8 with 2:03 left in the first quarter, keyed again by Abron and Dunn.
Loyola closed the deficit to 25-14 after one quarter, but Abron's first-half heroics weren't over. His three steals midway through the second quarter put the Gaels on top 34-18, the biggest lead of the half. Abron had made nine of 10 field goals.
Elsewhere in the tournament, Rich Rhinehart scored 21 and James Burrell added 20 to lead No. 7 Towson Catholic to a 93-66 rout of Goretti.
Quintin Moody scored 17 to pace No. 8 Cardinal Gibbons in an 81-45 rout of Archbishop Curley.
Luther Alexander and Joe Verch each scored 10, as Calvert Hall edged St. Frances, 42-41, in overtime.