St. Frances caps 30-victory season with Alhambra tournament title No. 1 Panthers become 3rd Baltimore team to win

March 18, 1996|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,Special to the Sun

FROSTBURG - Once a year, the main lobby of the Holiday Inn becomes a bazaar. For the past few years, participating players in the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament have sold items to local fans and memorabilia seekers after the three-day event.

The hottest items this year: anything with St. Frances on it.

The No. 1 Panthers won their first Alhambra Tournament title, beating Gonzaga of Washington, 61-46, at Frostburg State on Saturday night.

St. Frances (30-4) became the third team from Baltimore to win the tournament title, joining Calvert Hall, which won in its 1981-82 national championship season, and Towson Catholic in the 1961-62 season, the tournament's second year.

No longer can St. Frances be called "that little school on the east side."

The Panthers' 30 wins are the most by a No. 1 team since Dunbar went 29-0 to win a national championship in the 1991-92 season, and they are first team besides the Poets, Lake Clifton and Southern to be ranked No. 1 in nine seasons.

"We wanted to prove to everybody that we are No. 1," said senior guard Eric Payton. "We have no selfish players on this team."

Payton, who scored 11 points in the title game, had the game's crucial play late in the third quarter. Payton, 6 feet 2, grabbed a missed free throw, jumping over Gonzaga's 6-8 center Alexander Harris, put it back up and was fouled. His free throw completed the three-point play, giving St. Frances a 10-point margin.

The Panthers never trailed after Gonzaga scored the game's opening basket, building a 16-point lead midway through the first half. St. Frances used its quickness to knock away several passes into the paint, turning them into transition layups.

When Gonzaga was able to get inside, Shawn Hampton was waiting. The 6-7 sophomore blocked five shots. St. Frances played a 2-3 zone for most of the game, challenging Gonzaga to shoot from the perimeter.

"We felt early that they had to beat us in our zone," said St. Frances coach William Wells, whose team won its final 16 games. "We always had our hands on the ball."

Junior forward Mark Karcher, who scored 16 in the final, was named tournament MVP, becoming the first player to win MVP and Most Outstanding Player honors. Karcher, named outstanding player last year, was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Alphonso Jones.

Pub Date: 3/18/96

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