Spalding advances to title game, 53-47

Defense, size edge help Cavs hold off McDonogh, answer coach's challenge

Catholic League basketball semifinals

March 04, 2003|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Archbishop Spalding will make its fourth Baltimore Catholic League tournament final appearance in the past five years tonight, and the Cavaliers can thank a stern Sunday lecture from coach Mike Glick.

Disappointed in his team's performance in a six-point victory over Calvert Hall in Sunday's quarterfinals, Glick scolded his team in the locker room after the game. The Cavaliers responded last night.

Relying on a tough zone defense and a huge advantage inside, the eighth-ranked Cavaliers downed No. 9 McDonogh, 53-47, at Goucher College in the first of two BCL semifinals.

The Cavaliers' third victory over the Eagles this season vaulted them into tonight's 7:30 final against Mount St. Joseph, a 58-55 winner over St. Frances in the nightcap.

Spalding (24-5) trailed for just the first 2 1/2 minutes before opening up a double-digit lead that it maintained late into the third quarter. McDonogh made a run, cutting its deficit to 49-44 with under two minutes to play, but the veteran Cavaliers refused to fold down the stretch.

"I thought we played very tentatively on Sunday and I challenged the team," Glick said. "I thought we were in awe of the moment, but tonight, I thought we seized it. We played more unselfishly and more aggressively and that was the difference."

Nobody seemed to get Glick's message any clearer than Cavaliers senior Will Bowers. The 7-foot center, headed for the University of Maryland, touched the ball early and often on both ends of the court.

In what Glick called his best performance all season in a BCL game, Bowers had 21 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.

The Eagles, whose biggest player, Michael Popoko, is 6-6, were pesky all night but had no answer for Bowers and 6-7 junior Rudy Gay, who had 12 points, seven rebounds and five blocks.

"I played with more of a what-do-I-have-to-lose attitude," Bowers said. "I just wanted to be more aggressive and take the ball to the hole and draw fouls."

Said Gay: "We are just much bigger and rebound better and I think that's why we came out with three victories over them."

Bowers had nine points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter. That and the Cavaliers' zone defense, which limited the Eagles to 2-for-9 shooting in the first quarter, were the prime reasons McDonogh trailed 31-17 at halftime.

"We just weren't moving the ball enough early," said Eagles coach Matt MacMullan, whose team ended its season at 25-5. "But Spalding played great and they deserved to win."

The Eagles, led by Popoko's 16 points and nine rebounds, certainly deserve credit for not going away. Trailing 37-21 early in the third quarter, the Eagles got back into the game on two baseline three-pointers from junior guard Corey Davis. The second one cut the Cavaliers' lead to 39-31.

Popoko's put-back and Justin Drummond's pull-up jumper made it 48-43 with 2:30 to play. Two minutes later, Drummond, fouled while attempting a three-pointer, sank all three free throws to make it 51-47.

But the Cavaliers broke the Eagles' press and Gay made a baseline layup with 20 seconds left to seal the deal.

"We played in national tournaments to prepare for this tournament," Glick said. "And then we played scared on Sunday. But we didn't tonight, and I don't think we will tomorrow."

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