St. Frances cruises in league opener Karcher scores 21 in 75-60 win over St. Joe

Boys basketball

January 06, 1996|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

All the coaches in the Catholic League agree that the league is probably the most competitive in recent seasons.

Another thing they agree on is that No. 2 St. Frances still is the team to beat.

The defending regular-season and post-tournament champions opened defense of its titles last night, defeating No. 13 Mount St. Joseph, 75-60, at the University of Baltimore.

Junior forward Mark Karcher led St. Frances (10-2, 1-0) with 21 points and added 10 rebounds. Eric Payton added 14, coming off of the bench and Alphonso Jones scored 11.

Cory McNeill led all scorers with 24 for Mount St. Joseph (6-2, 0-1).

St. Frances, ranked No. 8 in the East region by USA Today, built a 19-point halftime advantage before the Gaels pulled within nine midway in the third quarter. But when it appeared Mount St. Joseph would threaten, the Panthers responded.

"I think we could have played a little better," said St. Frances coach William Wells. "We have to learn that teams are going to attack us and we can't let teams back into the game."

Trailing 36-17 at halftime, Mount St. Joseph scored 12 of the first 14 points of the second half to pull to within 38-29 with 5:07 remaining in the third quarter.

St. Frances, whose defensive pressure resulted in easy transition baskets, pushed the lead back to 13 on a dunk by Shawn Hampton and a layup by Payton.

After that, Mount St. Joseph could get no closer than 10.

"We dug ourselves a hole early," said Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchley. "We didn't take care of the ball and St. Frances is so quick turning defense into offense."

St. Frances also was effective slowing down Mount St. Joseph's leading scorer Daniel Whye, who finished with 11, collapsing on him quickly and applying pressure.

The Panthers were relentless in the late stages of the first half in building the 19-point halftime cushion. It led 17-11 after the opening period, then scored nine of the first 10 of the second to build a 26-12 advantage.

After a three-pointer pulled the Gaels to within 11, St. Frances ran off the next eight as Karcher scored four, including a breakaway dunk, for a 34-15 advantage with 1:31 left in the first half.

"We really didn't know what to expect in the first league game," said Karcher, the Catholic League's Most Valuable Player last season. "When we play good defense, it makes us very effective."

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