All-Metro Player of the Year Mark Karcher was held scoreless, while Mount St. Joseph senior guard Cory McNeill scored seemingly at will. The Gaels' game plan was working against No. 3 St. Frances.
But that was just the first period. By game's end, Karcher had 28 points -- 18 in the second half -- four steals and six assists. His teammate Shawn Hampton had 26 points, including 8-for-9 shooting from the line, to go with eight each in rebounds and blocked shots.
And the No. 6 Gaels?
They wound up on the losing end of an 82-54 rout that dropped them to 13-4 overall and 1-2 in the Catholic League. This from a St. Frances team that was coming off a loss to Calvert Hall, a team the Gaels had defeated one week prior.
"I thought it would be a heckuva game, but we kind of blew them out in the second half," said Hampton, who stands 6-foot-8 -- three inches taller than Karcher. "They were double-teaming Mark, so we started setting picks for him and rolled to the basket so that we'd be wide open. That seemed to work several times in the second half."
The Panthers (16-4, 2-1), who trailed, 14-13, after one quarter, did the critical damage with a 21-8 run in the second quarter that put them up, 34-25, at the half. They also outscored the Gaels, 36-18, in the fourth quarter, getting help from Larry Tucker (11 points), Darran Byrd (six points, three steals, two blocks), Charles Beaufort (four points, four rebounds) and Ronald Wingate, who came off the bench to score seven points and grab four rebounds -- all in the game's final two minutes.
"We figured out how they were playing us. They were leaving the middle wide open," said Karcher. "We started going back door. I started posting up down low. That opened everything up."
McNeill and Torey Butler each had a team-high 13 points, followed by 6-8 junior center James Baronas (10 points, six rebounds, two blocks).
McNeill scored 10 points in the first period, including his team's first six as it built a 10-4 lead. Hampton scored nine of his 15 first-half points in the first quarter, including two tip-ins.
Karcher, scoreless in the first period, opened the second with a layup -- his first of 10 points in the quarter. Meanwhile, McNeill was shut out during a second quarter that featured six lead changes and did not score again until 4: 24 was left in the third period.
A Karcher jumper just inside three-point range, followed by a steal and layup, put the Panthers up permanently, 23-20. Another Karcher steal and lay-up made it 34-22 with 1: 06 left in the half.
The Gaels closed to 40-34 in the third period, but got no closer. They trailed by 46-36 entering the fourth.
"We didn't do the things in the last three quarters that we did early in the first quarter," Mount St. Joe coach Pat Clatchley said. "We needed to take care of the ball and not give them transition baskets. We needed to rebound the ball, not give them second and third shots and tip-ins."