Mount St. Joe picks up pace in dropping T. Catholic

No. 2 Gaels advance to Catholic final, 57-43

Boys basketball

March 01, 2004|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

After falling into the hands of Towson Catholic and its slow tempo, defending champion Mount St. Joseph changed gears in the second half and went on to post a 57-43 victory over the Owls in a Baltimore Catholic League tournament semifinal last night at Goucher College.

The second-ranked Gaels (26-5) will defend their tournament title at 7 tonight at Goucher against No. 3 Archbishop Spalding (27-6), which defeated St. Frances in the other semifinal. Spalding, a 49-48 loser to the Gaels in last year's title game, will be appearing in its fifth championship game in six years. The Cavaliers have won it three times, most recently in 2002.

"We were a little too relaxed in the first half, and Coach told us that we were playing their game and needed to play ours," said Mount St. Joseph junior point guard Brian Johnson, who had 11 of his 14 points in the second half and finished with five rebounds, four assists and three steals. "It should be a war tomorrow [tonight]."

Gaels coach Pat Clatchey said his team, which repeated as BCL regular-season champion after winning its first tournament and regular-season titles last year, "was a little tight in the first half, but Brian got us going in the second half."

Johnson scored the first five points of the third quarter on two-point and three-point field goals, and the Gaels pushed their 23-18 halftime lead to 37-25 by the end of the period. The Gaels, who shot 22-for-44 from the field, made 13 of 21 attempts in the second half in putting away the No. 19 Owls (21-12).

"St. Joe is a great team," Towson Catholic coach Mike Daniel said. "They hit the shots you're supposed to hit. We wanted a low-scoring game, but they changed things in the second half. That Will Thomas is a tremendous player."

Thomas, the Gaels' 6-foot-7 center who is headed to George Mason, had eight of his team-high 15 points in the final period and finished with eight rebounds, five assists, one block and a steal. L.J. Mack added 13 points and two assists. Greg Woody had 10 points.

Jamal Smith led the Owls with 18 points, six rebounds and two each in assists, blocks and steals. Darren Hopkins scored 14 and had eight rebounds for Towson Catholic.

"We were too young at the power positions for them," said Daniel, who plays a couple of freshmen in the paint. "And for everybody that has been saying [on the street] we might leave the BCL and MIAA A Conference in a year or two, it's not true. We're here forever."

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