Mt. St. Joe squeaks by, wins Catholic title

Beating T. Catholic, 59-58, earns third crown in row

Boys basketball

High Schools

February 14, 2005|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Big plays by guards Greg Woody and Brian Johnson and forward Louis Birdsong in the last 33 seconds enabled top-ranked Mount St. Joseph to bounce back from Friday's first league loss to outlast No. 6 Towson Catholic, 59-58, yesterday in Irvington.

In what was their 45th home victory in the past 46 games, the host Gaels (25-2 overall) clinched their third straight Baltimore Catholic League regular-season title with a 12-1 record with one game left. Mount St. Joe will be the top seed for the BCL tournament that starts Feb. 26 at Loyola College.

The Gaels will try to become the fifth team to win three consecutive BCL tournament titles, the first since St. Frances (1995-1997). Loyola (1975-1978) is the only team to win four in a row.

"We wanted to win it outright, and to win a championship on your home floor makes it really special," said coach Pat Clatchey, whose Gaels had already clinched the regular-season title (at 14-1) in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.

Mount St. Joe's 19-game winning streak was broken Friday night with a 58-56 loss at Archbishop Spalding. It was the team's first loss locally (its other setback was to DeMatha), and Clatchey was eager to see how his Gaels would respond to second-place Towson Catholic (21-7, 9-4).

"I'm proud of my kids," Owls coach Mike Daniel said. "It was a winnable game, but they made plays at the end and Brian Johnson made one tremendous play for them."

After a basket by Chase Adams cut the Towson Catholic lead to 55-54 with 43 seconds left, Johnson made a leaping grab of the inbounds pass. He then drove the lane and dumped the ball off to the 6-foot-6 Birdsong, who scored and was fouled.

Birdsong, who had game highs of 21 points and nine rebounds, then completed the three-point play to make it 57-55 Mount St. Joe with 33 seconds left. Towson Catholic's Carroll Mitchell (10 points) then lost his balance and Woody forced a jump ball with five seconds left.

"He lost control dribbling the ball, and I went for it," said Woody, who had 11 points and made it 59-55 by making two free throws with two seconds left.

Malcolm Delaney, who led the Owls with 18 points, capped the scoring with a three-pointer at the buzzer. Teammate Donte' Greene had 13 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.

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