St. Joe edges Spalding again for title

No. 1 makes it 6 straight over No. 2 with 36-33 win

Baltimore Catholic League basketball

High Schools

March 02, 2004|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Mount St. Joseph accomplished the improbable and repeated as Baltimore Catholic League Tournament champion with a hard-earned 36-33 victory over Archbishop Spalding at Goucher College last night. The win was the sixth in succession in the past two seasons by the top-ranked Gaels (28-4) over the No. 2 Cavaliers (27-7).

After Brian Johnson's free throw gave the Gaels the final margin of victory with 17 seconds left, the Cavs went down the other end and Rudy Gay and Marquis Sullivan each missed a three-point attempt. Courtney Thomas grabbed the final rebound with two seconds left as the clock ran out. Just a year ago, St. Joe survived a frantic five shots under the basket as time expired to hold on for a 49-48 tournament victory.

The good news for Spalding is that it might get another shot at Mount St. Joe, having been asked to the prestigious Alhambra Invitational, March 18-20 at Frostburg State University.

Mount St. Joe had already received a bid after claiming the regular-season title for the second straight year and BCL commissioner Jack Degele announced to the throng after the game that the Cavaliers had received a bid yesterday.

Six in a row is "hard to explain, but we just found a way to get over the hump," said St. Joe coach Pat Clatchey. "And I think Will Thomas is the best player in St. Joe history."

Thomas repeated as BCL MVP with 12 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots.

"Winning this feels better the second time," said the 6-foot-7 Thomas. "We were confident all the way and it ended just like last year [under the basket]. It came down to free throws and defensive rebounding."

Greg Woody hit back-to-back baskets, the second a three, to tie the game at 30 and then give the Gaels a 33-30 lead with 4:13 left in the game. St. Joe hung on as L.J. Mack hit a pair of free throws with 36 seconds left for a 35-31 lead and Johnson hit the front end of two with 17 seconds on the clock to make it 36-33 after Gay sank a pair for Spalding.

Will Thomas kept grabbing rebounds with Courtney Thomas, who had six points and seven rebounds, down the stretch to deny the Cavaliers and mainly Gay second shots. The Thomases (no relation) held Gay to 10 points, less than half of his average and had a 21-10 edge in rebounds on their defensive side.

"That was the difference down the stretch, our rebounding," said St. Joe's junior point guard Johnson, who had seven points and five rebounds and joined Thomas on the All-Tournament team. "Will and Courtney were tough on the boards."

Spalding hit only three of 26 field-goal attempts in the second half and was just 1-for-15 in three-point attempts.

"We didn't shoot well at all and it's the first loss when we've held our opponent to under 60 points," said Cavs coach Mike Glick. "It was a great defensive effort by both teams and St. Joe is a deserving champion."

The loss was especially crushing for the 6-9 Gay, a McDonald's All-American headed to Connecticut. Gay was on the short end of eight straight losses in his prep career to the Gaels, the last six in two years at Spalding and his first two years at Eastern Tech.

"We had them in the beginning [23-20 at the half] but then we started making bad plays," said Gay. "We usually don't come out flat like that, but sometimes we had these days. It's real tough to lose to them. They have a really good team."

Gay was named to the All-Tournament team with teammate Marquis Sullivan. Completing the team were Jamal Smith of Towson Catholic and Gordon Brown of St. Frances. Brown's teammate Darnell Harris won the Sportsmanship Award.

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