Gay's 3 at :03 trips St. Frances, 70-68

Losing until last minute, Spalding rallies to make Catholic League final

Boys basketball

High Schools

March 01, 2004|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

After one quarter, at the half, through three periods and well into the fourth quarter of last night's Baltimore Catholic League tournament semifinal at Goucher College, the St. Frances Panthers were firmly believing this would finally be their turn against Archbishop Spalding.

Then came a clumsy couple of minutes.

Four turnovers and bad aim at the foul line in the final two-plus minutes overshadowed an otherwise strong performance from the No. 4 Panthers, giving Spalding forward Rudy Gay a chance to be the hero.

The McDonald's All-American hit a three-pointer from the top of the key with three seconds left to send the No. 3 Cavaliers to tonight's league championship with a 70-68 win - their fourth victory over the Panthers (26-7) this season.

"That's the mark of a championship team. My teammates and I came together and did whatever we needed to win this game," said Gay, who scored 18 of a team-high 20 points in the second half. "I thought the shot was going long - it rimmed in a little bit - I got a nice bounce."

Gordon Brown (24 points) and Darnell Harris (22) led the Panthers, who shot 54 percent from the field, made nine three-pointers, limited Gay to two points on three shots in the first half, and never trailed in the game until the final minute.

The Cavaliers scored the last seven points of the third quarter - a three-point play from Gay with eight seconds left the key points - to cut the lead to 45-43. Then the Panthers answered with two three-pointers and a three-point play from Brown followed by two more threes from Harris to take a 60-52 lead with 4:07 to play.

Spalding (27-6) will face No. 2 Mount St. Joseph's, a 57-43 victor over Towson Catholic in the other semifinal, at 7 tonight at Goucher College.

The Cavaliers' defense created turnovers and then easy scores in the final minutes. Junior guard Marquis Sullivan (19 points) hit a long jumper from the right corner with 25 seconds left to give the Cavaliers their first lead at 67-66. Harris answered with a driving layup with 13 seconds left before Gay found time and room from up top for the game-winner.

"We totally gave the game away. Those critical turnovers with a minute left and a lead - we gave that game to Spalding," said Brown. "We choked - we couldn't get the ball in bounds. They didn't earn it, we gave it to them and that's frustrating."

Panthers forward Rashawn Alexander kept the ball away from Gay for three quarters, but Cavaliers Kevin Galinat (nine points) and Jesse Brooks (eight points) stepped up enough for Gay to take over in the final minutes.

"It was an unbelievable performance from St. Frances and for us to beat them a fourth time to me is a remarkable accomplishment. It's a testament to our kids that they found a way to stay in the game," said Spalding coach Mike Glick. "We showed we have more than just one player."

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