St. Frances tops Gonzaga, 61-46, for Alhambra crown Tourney MVP Karcher scores 16 points

March 17, 1996|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

FROSTBURG - Some hugged. Some signed autographs. Some shed a couple of tears.

But those tears were of joy for No. 1 St. Frances, which completed its season with a 61-46 victory over Washington's Gonzaga in the championship game of the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament before a crowd of more than 1,400 at Frostburg State.

Tournament MVP Mark Karcher scored 16 points to lead St. Frances (30-4). Alphonso Jones had 13 points and seven steals, and Shawn Hampton and Eric Payton each scored 11.

Rahsaan Johnson led Gonzaga, ranked 10th in the Washington area, with 16 points.

In winning its 16th consecutive game, St. Frances became the first Baltimore area team to win the Alhambra since Calvert Hall in its 1981-82 national championship season. The Panthers' 30 victories are the most by a No. 1 team since Dunbar went 29-0 in 1991-92 to win a national title.

"It feels good to win this one," said St. Frances coach William Wells. "It has been a long time coming. For St. Frances, this does a great service to our program."

One of St. Frances' first losses came at the hands of Gonzaga, 57-51 in the final of the Gonzaga Classic in December. The Panthers remebered that loss mainly because of the heckling by Gonzaga students behind their bench.

With St. Frances clicking on all cylinders last night, Gonzaga couldn't keep up. The Panthers never trailed after the game's opening basket.

The closest Gonzaga got was 39-35 late in the third quarter. After a free throw by Jones put St. Frances up by five, he later found Charles Beauford cutting to the basket and was fouled.

Beauford missed the free throw that would have completed a three-point play, but Payton snatched the rebound, put it back up and was fouled. His free throw put the Panthers up 45-35 and Gonzaga never got closer than eight the rest of the way.

"Eleven turnovers in the first quarter doesn't get you off to a good start," said Gonzaga coach Richard Myers. "They are very solid, especially when they are in a zone. They just outplayed us."

The Panthers were too quick for Gonzaga. They knocked away several entry passes to the paint and turned them into transition baskets. When Gonzaga was able to get the ball inside, Hampton, 6 feet 7, blocked six shots.

Wells had a two-hour meeting on Friday afternoon after St. Frances' poor showing in its quarterfinal win over Archbishop Carroll of Philadelphia. The Panthers responded, beating 14-time tournament champion DeMatha in the semifinals Friday night.

Pub Date: 3/17/96

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