Third-ranked Calvert Hall opened an early 15-point lead and staved off several second-half rallies by No. 13 Mount St. Joseph by hitting 32 of 40 free throws on the way to a 78-65 Catholic League victory in Towson last night.
Senior guard Juan Dixon led the Cardinals with 20 points and Reggie Bryant scored 17 as Calvert Hall (23-4, 8-2 league) avenged an early-season loss to the Gaels at Irvington.
Cardinals coach Mark Amatucci was pleased with his team's performance and noted that they had no problem getting up for this game.
"We came out ready and got control of the game early. When we're at full strength, we're a pretty good team," Amatucci said.
Calvert Hall, which led throughout the first half and held a 13-point lead at intermission, saw the Gaels battle back several times in the second half but St. Joe (20-8, 4-6) could get no closer than seven points (62-55), midway in the fourth quarter.
With Dixon on the bench with four fouls, the Cardinals' defense stepped up its pressure. Aaron Herbert and Antoine Peoples drew offensive charges on back-to-back possessions and the Cardinals extended their lead to 68-55 with just over three minutes left.
"Our transition and defense were tough, and the defense got two big stops when we needed them and Juan was on the bench," said Amatucci.
Herbert chipped in 14 points for Calvert Hall, and Peoples had 13. Cory McNeil led Mount St. Joseph with 21 points, and Torrey Butler scored 15 for the Gaels.
After the teams traded four quick points apiece in the game's first 45 seconds, the Gaels hit an early drought. The Cardinals built an 11-4 lead over the next four minutes and led 16-8 after the first quarter, as St. Joe made just two of 12 from the field in the that first quarter.
With Gary Williams and Peoples working smoothly inside, Calvert Hall expanded that lead to 25-10 with 5: 30 left in the first half. Williams scored on a pair of feeds from Herbert and Dixon set up Peoples for a three-point play.
But the Gaels showed a little life late in the second quarter McNeil and Butler.
Trailing 33-16 with three minutes remaining in the half, McNeil started a 9-2 spurt by the Gaels with a 12-foot jumper from the baseline and a pair of free throws. Then Butler sank one free throw and added a pair of field goals in the final minute of the half to cut the Cards' lead to 35-25 with 20 seconds left.
But Calvert Hall got the last shot of the half and it was the one it wanted, a three-pointer by Dixon from NBA range with three seconds to go.