No. 5 Towson Catholic stops St. Joe, 68-59 Johnson scores 32, including 10 three-pointers

Catholic boys championship

March 03, 1998|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Every shot he made was picture-perfect. When he missed, it wasn't by much.

In one of the most memorable performances in Catholic League title game history, Towson Catholic point guard Lafonte Johnson scored 32 points, on 11-for-19 shooting, to lead No. 5-ranked Towson Catholic to a 68-59 victory over No. 11 Mount St. Joseph before a capacity crowd of 2,000 at Goucher College last night.

The junior made 10 three-pointers to earn MVP honors and help Towson Catholic to its first tournament championship since 1993. In three tournament games, Johnson scored 65 points and had 11 assists.

"When we played them, we always say that we're going to give up something along the line," said Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchely, "but you don't expect someone to shoot like that. He kept pushing out, pushing out. He hit 10 threes, what more can you say?"

The Owls (23-9) will play No. 4 St. Frances, the regular-season champion, Saturday night at the Towson Center to decide which team will represent the Catholic League at the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament at Frostburg State, March 19-21.

Towson Catholic lost both regular-season meetings to St. Frances, including a 65-53 loss at the University of Baltimore on RTC Feb. 20. The loss was among three the Owls suffered in their final four league games.

But Towson Catholic appears to have regained its confidence, and it couldn't have come at a more opportune time. That holds especially true for Johnson, who knocked six straight three-pointers during a stretch in the opening half, and was 10-for-14 from behind the arc.

By halftime, Johnson had 20 points of his team's 29 points, hitting on seven of nine shots, six-for-seven behind the arc.

"It was just confidence, and I couldn't hold back," said an amazed Johnson, who also had five rebounds and three assists. "This was the championship game, and we had to win it."

It didn't matter what different zone Mount St. Joseph threw at Johnson to slow him down, he found just enough space methodically to knock down Mount St. Joseph's hopes for its first tournament title.

The Gaels were within 40-38 midway in the third quarter when Johnson sank back-to-back three-pointers, extending the lead for Towson Catholic to 46-38.

Johnson's final three-pointer, from the left of the three-point arc, was his final basket of the evening, but his teammates picked up the slack in the final quarter.

Senior center Todd Sykes added 14 points and nine rebounds for Towson Catholic, and Keith Jenifer added 12 points and seven assists. Torrey Butler led Mount St. Joseph (24-9) with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

The second period belonged to Johnson.

After hitting two three-pointers in the first quarter, Johnson hit four consecutive shots from behind the arc, the last giving the Owls a 25-20 lead with 5: 19 remaining before he took a rest.

"He's starting to put it all together," Towson Catholic coach Mike Daniel said about Johnson. "It's a step-by-step process. Everybody expects him to be Superman, but he's not. He's a 16-year-old kid."

Reggie Bryant (Calvert Hall), Sykes, Butler and Sean Johnson (Mount St. Joseph), and Reggie Gray (Loyola) joined Lafonte Johnson on the all-tournament team. James Baronas of Mount St. Joseph won the Sportsmanship Award.

Pub Date: 3/03/98

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