Gibbons rallies, stuns St. Frances, 70-66

February 28, 1994|By Bob Clark | Bob Clark,Special to The Sun

This might have been Cardinal Gibbons' greatest Crusade.

Trailing by nine with less than two minutes to play, the top-seeded Crusaders (25-6) outscored third-seeded St. Frances 16-3 in the final 1:50 to capture the 23rd Baltimore Catholic

League Tournament championship with a 70-66 victory at Reitz Arena at Loyola College.

With point guard Steve Wojciechowski leading the frantic comeback attempt while playing the entire fourth quarter with four fouls, Gibbons cut a 63-54 deficit to 66-63 in just one minute.

"At that point we had nothing to lose," said Wojciechowski, who was named to the McDonald's All-America Team earlier in the day. "It was an unbelievable game to play in."

A steal by Wojciechowski, who finished with 26 points and was named tournament Most Valuable Player, and a basket by Ryan Beaumont brought the Crusaders within three points with 50 seconds left.

Then St. Frances center Mark Karcher (18 points) missed the front end of a one-and-one and sophomore Josh Davalli's fourth three-pointer of the second half tied the game at 66 with 39 seconds left.

On the ensuing possession, Wojciechowski again made a steal and fed Jerard Rucker for the go-ahead basket with 15 seconds left.

The Crusaders added the clinching points on two Wojciechowski free throws.

Gibbons coach Ray Mullis said: "That comeback was an all-timer. The kids all stepped up and we got great leadership at the end."

The loss was especially disheartening for the Panthers, who dropped to 13-8. "In the last minute a couple of mistakes were really tough to take," said St. Frances coach William Wells. "I'm impressed how we played, but we really should have won this game."

Davalli finished with 17 points for Gibbons and Rucker had 10. Wheeler topped the Panthers with 22 and, along with Karcher, controlled the inside until the closing minutes.

Davalli, Rucker, Wheeler, Karcher and Calvert Hall's John McKay were named to the all-tournament team and St. Frances' Darryl Dantzler was given the Sportsmanship Award.

The Panthers dominated the inside in the first quarter, building -- an 18-12 lead with Karcher and Wheeler scoring four of the nine baskets on follow-up shots.

Gibbons tied the game at 20 on a three-pointer by Wojciechowski 1:07 into the second quarter. But the Panthers continued to crash the offensive boards and Karcher and Wheeler hit 10 of their first 11 field-goal tries. The teams were tied at the half, 32-32.

NOTES: Two games that were postponed during the regular season will be played this week to determine the regular-season Catholic League champion. St. Maria Goretti will host Calvert Hall tomorrow and then play St. Frances on Thursday at Towson Catholic. If Goretti wins both, it will tie Gibbons for the regular-season lead at 10-2 and will force a playoff for the regular-season title. If the regular-season and tournament champions are different teams, that would force another playoff to determine who would play in the Alhambra Tournament.

ST.FRANCES -- McClain 6, Billips 3, Dantzler 11, Karcher 18 Wheeler 22, Bradford 2, Payton 4. Totals: 29 7-15 66.

GIBBONS -- Wojciechowski 26, Davalli 17, Fuller 2, Rucker 10 Beaumont 7, Collins 8. Totals: 26 11-15 70.

St. Frances 18 14 23 11 -- 66

Gibbons .. .12 20 18 20 -- 70

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