Towson Catholic tops Texans, 57-52 Free throws by Owls crucial

NYC team next

Charm City Classic

January 31, 1998|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

On three previous appearances in the Charm City Classic, Towson Catholic has played in a preliminary contest.

Last night at the Towson Center, the No. 5-ranked Owls got the opportunity to play in the Southeast bracket. The Owls didn't disappoint in the spotlight, defeating Strake Jesuit of Houston, Texas, 57-52, before a crowd of about 1,500.

Junior point guard Lafonte "Tay" Johnson led Towson Catholic with 15 points, and Todd Sykes and Keith Jennifer each scored 10. Broderick Hicks led Strake Jesuit (21-6), the No. 1 team in the Houston area, with a game-high 16 points.

The Owls (15-4) will play St. Raymond's of New York City for the bracket championship at 7: 15 tonight. St. Raymond's defeated No. 7 Archbishop Spalding, 71-49, in the earlier semifinal.

Towson Catholic managed only three field goals in the final 12 minutes but was 10-of-14 from the free-throw line as it was able to control the half-court with the three-guard tandem of Johnson, Jennifer and Deone Carter (nine points).

"We don't have the muscle to wrestle with a lot of teams," said Towson Catholic coach Mike Daniel, "so we've got to use what we can to our advantage, and right now, it's my guard play."

Johnson, one of the area's premier underclassmen and the smallest of the Owls' backcourt tandem at 5-foot-8, probably had the game's biggest play.

With Towson Catholic holding a 51-47 advantage with 59 seconds remaining, Johnson pulled in a miss by Sykes that slipped through the hands of Strake Jesuit's Ed Kargbookorogie. Johnson was immediately fouled and hit two free throws, extending the lead to 53-47.

Sykes made one of two free throws with 33 seconds remaining for a seven-point advantage before Sean McCarthy brought ZTC Strake Jesuit to 54-49 with 25 seconds left. Steve Johnson (eight points) hit two free throws for Towson Catholic and a 56-49 lead.

"We had a chance to win, and Coach [Daniel] just wanted to run offense and get to the free-throw line," said Lafonte Johnson. "We just wanted to hold the ball and run the clock."

Playing against Hicks, one of the country's top seniors who's heading to Wake Forest this fall, Johnson sparkled, adding six rebounds, three assists and steals.

One of those steals came off a clean swipe of Hicks and layup with five seconds left in the second quarter for a 33-31 halftime lead as Johnson had 10 points in the first 16 minutes.

The Owls carried a 45-43 lead in the final quarter after another score on a layup by Carter with five seconds left.

"It's big for the school and the parents and staff who have supported us," said Daniels. "To get here is like Christmas for us."

Pub Date: 1/31/98

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