1996 All-Metro boys basketball teams

March 16, 1996

Coach of the year

William Wells, St. Frances: Many still don't know where St. Frances is located, but Wells and the panthers had a hugh impact on the area's basketball scene this season, earning their first No. 1 ranking and winning their second straight Catholic League regular-season and tournament championships.

St. Francis, located in a small building in East Baltimore -- an area dominated by traditional powers Dunbar and Lake Clifton doesn't have a gym and practices on a court at a nearby elementary school that is nearly half the size of the court at the University of Baltimore, where it plays its home games. Wells adapted his team, employing a patient half-court game that wore down opponents with excellent interior passing and strong transition. St. Frances has a 51-9 record the past two seasons. "I'm more proud of this team than the others," said Wells, a 1968 graduate of Towson State. "We had our ups and downs, but we always found a way to win. This is not a quitting team." St. Frances is the first team other than Dunbar, Lake Clifton or

Southern-Baltimore to be ranked No. 1 since Goretti in 1986-87. In nine seasons Wells has a career record of 198-80, including three Catholic League Tournament titles.

Player of the year

Mark Karcher, St Francis, junior, forward: Karcher had tremendous expections when he arrived at St. Frances as a freshman, having played competitively in various unlimited leagues with and against some of Baltimore's current collegiate and professional stars. Karcher has met and perhaps exceeded those expectations, winning Player of the Year in the Catholic League the last two seasons, and becoming the first underclassmen in many years to be named The Sun's All-Metro Boys Player of the Year. Karcher, 6 feet 5, led the Panthers to their first No. 1 ranking, averaging 24.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists for the two-time Catholic League regular-season and tournament champions. In the tournament final against Calvert Hall, he broke a 60-60 tie with a three-pointer, and then followed with a three-point play in lifting the Panthers to 71-67 victory. The co-MVP of the tournament along with teammate Alphonso Jones, Karcher was the MVP of the Southeast bracket at the First National Bank Charm City Classic, scoring the first seven points for St. Frances in the final quarter as it rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit for a 63-59 win over Strake Jesuit (Texas). Karcher moved to his natural position at the wing and improved his shooting range, but his unique court awareness combined with his scoring and passing ability belies his age 16. "None of the top players in the city could have come in and do what Mark has done at St. Frances," said St. Frances coach William Wells. "He's a big-time player who just happens to be playing at a small school." Karcher, who was the MVP of the St. Matthews Tournament in Canada, made the all-tournament team at the Gonzaga (D.C.) Classic and the McDonald's Classic in Erie, Pa. Later this month, Karcher will be a member of a team with other top high school players representing the United States at a 17-team international tournament in Germany.

The first team

Irving Conwell, Oakland Mills, senior, guard: Conwell's knowledge of basketball complements his talents on the court. Conwell, 6 feet 2, produced a remarkable year for the Scorpions, averaging 25.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 2.5 assists to earn Howard County Player of the Year honors for a second consecutive season. A second-team All-Metro pick last season, Conwell scored a school-record 43 points against Howard. Conwell is a natural scorer, virtually able to score from any spot on the court and is active on both ends. "Overall, Irving is the best to ever play in Howard County," said Hammond coach Mike Mongelli. Delaware and George Washington are among the colleges that are interested in Conwell.

Josh Davalli, Gibbons, senior, forward: Davalli opted not to follow his brother, Jake, and attend Calvert Hall, where Jake was a former first-team All-Metro pick, and the decision was Gibbons' gain. Davalli, 6 feet 6, averaged 20.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists, earning All City/County first-team honors and was named to the All-Catholic League first team for a second straight season. Mainly playing on the outside his first two seasons, Davalli added some bulk to play inside, where he was more aggressive yet maintained his touch from the perimeter (he hit a school-record 92 three-pointers). "He's an intelligent and hard-working player who has greatly improved each year," said Gibbons coach Brian Moorhouse. Davalli, who's a member of the National Honor Society, has a 3.6 GPA. Army, Bucknell, Dayton, Maryland, Navy, Penn State, Towson State and UMBC are recruiting Davalli.

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