Karcher career nears end as Alhambra tourney opens College play still question for St. Frances standout

March 20, 1997|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FROSTBURG -- His high school basketball career began four years ago on the court of Phelps High in northeast Washington, D.C. On Saturday night, it will conclude here in the Western Maryland mountains.

In between, St. Frances' Mark Karcher has put together a prep career that has landed him in an elite group of players who dominated the Baltimore high school basketball arena -- players such as Skip Wise, Quintin Dailey, Reggie Williams, Duane Ferrell, Donta Bright and Keith Booth.

Beginning this afternoon at Frostburg State, Karcher will attempt to add the finishing touches to his brilliant career as the No. 2 Panthers (30-6) meet Bishop Walsh of Cumberland in the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament's opening round.

"Looking at my teammates, I realized that this is last time I'll be playing with them," said Karcher, last season's All-Metro Player of the Year and this season's All-City/County Player of the Year. "The feeling is starting to come over me. I sit at home and think, 'This is my last time playing high school basketball these last few games.' I just want to capture all the feeling of the rest of the games."

Karcher, a 6-foot-5 forward yet to fulfill collegiate freshman eligibility requirements, took the Scholastic Assessment Test for the fourth time last Saturday. Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Villanova, Virginia are heavily recruiting him.

Rutgers and Seton Hall, two Big East schools that have fired their head coaches in recent weeks, could be slipping out of the picture for Karcher, while Georgia Tech and Virginia are making a late charge at the area's No. 1 prospect and one of the country's top 20 players.

"I'm still listening to what they have to say," said Karcher of his recruitment. "I don't have a favorite, so I'm just listening, [and will decide] when the season is completed."

St. Frances' players, who haven't played since winning the school's third straight Catholic League Tournament championship more than two weeks ago, will turn their attention to the task of winning their second consecutive Alhambra.

After a sluggish start in the opening round last year, St. Frances defeated DeMatha (54-47) and Gonzaga of D.C. (61-46) to win the title, becoming the first Baltimore team to win the Alhambra since Calvert Hall completed its 34-0 mythical national championship season in 1982.

The No. 4 Cardinals (26-6), who finished second to St. Frances in the regular season and post-season tournament, also will be participating as the Catholic League representative, because St. Frances is the tournament's defending champion.

Calvert Hall, which last played in the Alhambra Tournament in 1984, will play Archbishop Carroll of D.C. (23-7), ranked No. 3 in the Washington, D.C., area, in tonight's 9: 15 finale.

"I think it's a reward for the strides we made this season," said Cardinals coach Mark Amatucci, who coached Calvert Hall to the 1982 Alhambra championship and is 94-34 in his second stint. "The competition is the best on the East Coast. There are thousands of high schools that aren't playing anymore, and we are."

The Cardinals and Panthers, who have played for the Catholic League Tournament championship the last three seasons, could meet Saturday, either for the championship or a consolation game.

While St. Frances is favored to get by tourney-host Bishop Walsh today, Calvert Hall will have a tall order in with facing Archbishop Carroll and its 6-foot-10 center Ruben Boumtje Boumtje, who has signed with Georgetown.

If St. Frances wins, it will meet the winner of the game between Gonzaga (28-4), ranked No. 25 nationally in this week's USA Today, and St. Thomas Aquinas of Ontario, Canada. If Calvert Hall wins, the Cardinals will meet either Archbishop Carroll of Radnor, Pa. (27-1), ranked No. 15 in the country by USA Today, or 14-time Alhambra champion DeMatha (25-6), ranked No. 6 in the Washington area.

Alhambra Catholic Invitational

(at Frostburg State)

Today

Quarterfinals

Game 1 -- Gonzaga (D.C.) vs. St. Thomas Aquinas (Canada), 4; Game 2 -- St. Frances vs. Bishop Walsh, 5: 45; Game 3 -- Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) vs. DeMatha, 7: 30; Game 4 -- Calvert Hall vs. Archbishop Carroll (D.C.), 9: 15.

Tomorrow

Consolations: Losers of Game 1 & 2, 4; Losers of Game 3 & 4, 5: 45

Semifinals: Winners of Game 1 & 2, 7: 30; Winners of Game 3 & 4, 9: 15.

Saturday

7th place consolation, 3; 5th place consolation, 4: 45; 3rd place consolation, 6: 30; championship, 8: 15

Pub Date: 3/20/97

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