St. Paul's Michael Watson is no stranger to heroics against rival Severn. In the teams' last meeting, the 5-foot-10 junior guard won the game with a steal and a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Yesterday, in the Maryland Scholastic Association C Conference final at the Metro Classic, however, no last-second heroics were necessary. With nine fourth-quarter points, Watson helped polish off the Admirals with time to spare in the Crusaders' 54-51 win at the Baltimore Arena.
"Mike was just clutch," said St. Paul's coach Rick Collins. "[Severn] keyed on [team scoring leaders] Simms [Jenkins] and Robby [Bouse], but they found out we're not just a two-person team."
The Admirals (18-8) keyed on the pair, holding them to 19 points, nearly 11 below their collective average. But that left the door wide-open for Watson.
"We ran a motion offense, and I just got some open shots," said Watson, whose 18 points and five rebounds earned him the game's Most Valuable Player award. "This definitely is more satisfying than when I hit the shot last time to win it. That was just me hitting the shot. This was a total team effort."
The win gave St. Paul's (20-8) its second straight C Conference championship. In last year's final, the Crusaders survived a poor shooting performance to pull out an overtime win over Boys' Latin.
In this one, after falling behind early, St. Paul's came back and held a slim lead for most of the game. After Severn's Brad Fowler (14 points) hit a three-pointer 37 seconds into the fourth quarter to tie the game at 39-39, the lead changed hands five times before Watson and Jenkins each hit a pair of late free throws to give the Crusaders the lead for good.
Severn made just one of its final five shots from the field, and missed three key free throws in the final 42 seconds.
"We missed some shots when the game was on the line," said Admirals coach Jim Doyle. "I thought we did a good job on Bouse and Jenkins. Maybe we didn't worry enough about the others."
Late in the game, Watson proved invaluable, providing the late punch necessary to lift his team over the top. With Bouse and Jenkins well guarded, the junior scored seven in a 2:23 stretch midway through the fourth quarter to give St. Paul's a 50-49 lead with 1:30 to play.
Collins said that Watson's three-pointer midway through the quarter was the turning point in the game. Trailing, 44-43, it gave the Crusaders a two-point lead, and helped prolong a 7-1 mid-quarter run.
SEVERN -- Moran 12, Ripley 3, Webb 7, Fowler 14, Mack 8, Pitkin 6, Vereen 1. Totals: 19 10-18 51.
ST. PAUL'S -- Bouse 6, Croft 8, Jenkins 13, O'Hearn 1, Scheinker 2, Read 6, Watson 18. Totals: 14 23-37 54.
Severn... ... ...7... 18... 11... 15... --... 51
St. Paul's .... 11... 16... 12... 15... --... 54