Towson Catholic defeats Loyola, boosts confidence No. 6 Owls claim 55-42 tournament semifinal win

Catholic League boys

March 02, 1998|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A week ago, Towson Catholic was heading in the wrong direction. Two straight losses had the Owls, which had set the pace for most of the Catholic League regular season, quickly losing confidence.

Though the No. 6 Owls haven't necessarily regained their early-season form, they are in the Catholic League Tournament finals. They advanced with a 55-42 victory over No. 17 Loyola last night before a capacity crowd of 2,000 at Goucher College.

Junior point guard Lafonte Johnson led all scorers with 14 points for Towson Catholic (22-9) and Todd Sykes added 12 points, on 6-for-6 shooting. Brian Cosgrove led Loyola (16-16) with 12 points and Reggie Gray had 10.

The Owls will play Mount St. Joseph, a 71-70 winner over Calvert Hall in the other semifinal last night, for the 27th tournament championship at 7: 30 tonight at Goucher College.

The Owls will be shooting for their first tournament title since 1993, when they edged Loyola, 60-58, completing a back-to-back run.

Coming into the tournament, Towson Catholic had lost three of its past four league games, including defeats to St. Frances and Spalding last weekend.

After surviving a three-point barrage from Cardinal Gibbons in a 57-54 semifinal triumph on Friday, the Owls didn't allow Loyola's perimeter attack to get on track, limiting the Dons to 14 of 44 shooting.

"We're trying to get back on track," said Towson Catholic coach Mike Daniel. "We're not at the top of our game. Defensively, we're playing very well right now, and that's what has gotten us to the championship game."

In the final period, Loyola shot 2-for-17, as the Owls had a 44-33 lead with 5: 11 remaining. The Dons hit their first field goal of the quarter on a basket by Timmy Hyle, bringing them to 46-39 with 2: 10 left.

Loyola then missed its next six shots, and Towson Catholic put the game away by scoring nine straight -- with four points each from Keith Jenifer and Steve Johnson -- for a 55-39 lead.

"We just didn't shoot the ball well enough," said Loyola coach Jerry Savage, whose team lost both regular-season meetings to Towson Catholic. "A lot of times, the other team has something to do with that. We got pretty good looks at the baskets, but we didn't convert."

The Owls took a 25-22 lead at halftime as Aaron Early made a three-pointer after Jenifer had his shot blocked by Adam Melchor.

The momentum carried into the third quarter for Towson Catholic, which scored the first six points for a 31-22 lead. A three-pointer by Lafonte Johnson extended the lead to 39-26 with 3: 06 remaining in the quarter.

"We just needed to focus and concentrate on winning," said Lafonte Johnson, who was selected to the Catholic League's first team. "We were getting caught up with individual stuff, but we realized what this is all about."

LOYOLA -- Cosgrove 12, Melchor 6, Bosica 9, Gray 10, Hyle 3, Richardson 2. Totals 14 9-16 42.

TOWSON CATHOLIC -- L. Johnson 14, Carter 10, Jenifer 10, S. Johnson 6, Early 3, Sykes 12. Totals 20 10-15 55. Half: TC 25-22.

Pub Date: 3/02/98

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