St. Joe survives final flurry, snares first Catholic crown

Spalding misses 5 shots in final eight seconds for Gaels to seal 49-48 thriller

Catholic League/MIAA A Conference basketball

March 05, 2003|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey said the "NCAA couldn't have had a better finish than that," seconds after his Gaels survived a 49-48 decision over Archbishop Spalding to win their first Baltimore Catholic League tournament title in the 32-year history of the event

Spalding got off five shots under the basket in the last eight seconds, but came up empty as the No. 3-ranked Gaels (28-3) also claimed the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference title with more than 2,700 looking on last night at Goucher College.

"It seemed like the longest two seconds of my life," said St. Joe 6-foot-6 senior Anthony Fair, who had eight points and six rebounds.

"I was just going for the ball and the buzzer finally sounded and the crowd erupted. I heard the crowd yell and I knew it was over and I couldn't believe it. I love Clatchey - we all do - and this is for him."

Clatchey is in his 11th season at the Irvington school and had tears rolling down his cheeks after a wild celebration at midcourt.

Both teams received bids to the prestigious Alhambra Catholic Invitational at Frostburg State in Cumberland on March 13-15. Alhambra had given St. Joe a berth in the tournament last week and Spalding received a bid yesterday when Gonzaga of D.C. turned its down.

On a night when Gaels big man Will Thomas was limited to one field goal and five points by Spalding's Rudy Gay, senior guard Keon Lattimore stepped up with four three-pointers, two in each half, and had 20 points. It was Mount St. Joe's third win over the No. 8 Cavaliers (25-6).

"Before the game, our coach said everybody says it's tough to beat somebody three times, but he told us you only have to beat them once," said Lattimore.

"I had a real good game, but I couldn't have done it without my teammates. We've been playing together since we were freshmen and we have a lot of clutch players. We definitely got the monkey off our backs. We're No. 1 right now, champions baby."

Thomas, who was the surprising John Plevyak Tournament Most Valuable Player over Lattimore, did toss in what proved to be the game-winning point from the line with 1:07 remaining.

Seven-footer Will Bowers, who had a career-high 26 points to go with seven rebounds for Spalding, put the Cavaliers within 49-48 with 40 seconds remaining. The Gaels' Kyle O'Connor (six points) and Spalding's Jesse Brooks missed free throws in the last 29 seconds.

After Brooks (six points) failed on his attempt to tie the game in a one-and-one situation with 14 seconds left, the scramble for the rebound went out off of Mount St. Joseph with 12 seconds left.

During a timeout, Spalding set up a play for Bowers, who had 60 points in three games. He got the ball for a short jumper, but the 8-footer hit the rim. A frenzied attempt to tip the ball in failed as nearly everybody on both teams seemed to be up in the air and vying for the basketball.

"These guys just don't quit, and kept on doing what we've been doing all year," Clatchey said.

The game was tied 25-25 at the half and it was back and forth in the second half with Spalding leading 42-39 after three periods.

Lattimore's final three-pointer with 5:43 left tied it at 42, and after a basket by Gay (eight points, 14 rebounds) gave the Cavaliers a 44-42 lead, sophomore Brian Johnson hit a three-pointer to put the Gaels back up, 45-44, with 3:00 left.

Bowers made it 46-45 Spalding, but O'Connor followed with a three-pointer to give the Gaels the lead for good with 1:59 left.

"Our kids played great but give St. Joe's all the credit," said Spalding coach Mike Glick.

The winners shot 37 percent and the losers 38 percent.

Lattimore, Thomas, Bowers, Gay and Darnell Harris of St. Frances and Mike Popoko of McDonogh were named to the All-Tournament team.

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