For the past month they've been the hottest team in the Catholic League, and last night the Mount St. Joseph Gaels earned a bit of a reward for their efforts.
With seniors Tim Trotta and Donte Abron combining for 43 points, the unranked Gaels closed the regular season at home by defeating No. 10 Calvert Hall, 70-61, for their 10th win in the past 11.
St. Joe's improved to 17-12 overall, 8-6 in the Catholic League and, more importantly, 11-5 in the MSA Armstrong Conference A League -- good for fourth place and the final spot in next week's Armstrong Conference playoffs.
"We've been playing very well," said first-year coach Pat Clatchley. "We've won 10 of 11, beaten three straight top 10 teams [Loyola, Gibbons and Calvert Hall] and improved from 1-4 in the Catholic League to 8-6. I don't think the kids have gotten the recognition they deserve."
Against the Cardinals (18-10, 9-5 and 12-4), the Gaels' 11-point second-quarter lead wasted away by midway in the fourth quarter. Calvert Hall used a six-point run in the last quarter to take a 57-56 lead on a basket by senior Chris Wilson.
But Wilson, who finished with 19 points, despite limited time because foul trouble, fouled out just a minute later. The Cardinals managed only two field goals in the final four minutes when they also lost Brian Matz and John Hedrick on fouls and the Gaels bunched eight free throws into the final 36 seconds.
Junior Kenny Krabitz (12 points) hit seven of eight from the foul line in the fourth quarter for the Gaels, and Trotta, who led all scorers with 25 points, added two.
"This team is at the point of the season where you want to be playing your best ball," Clatchley said. "And our guys have that belief."
Calvert Hall will play at Towson Catholic in the first round of the MSA playoffs next Tuesday. The Gaels will play at Loyola. Cardinal Gibbons, which tied in the Armstrong Conference with St. Joe, was eliminated because it lost both regular-season games with the Gaels.