Record-setting Mount St. Joseph finished off its latest task last night, winning its third Baltimore Catholic League title in four years by beating Towson Catholic, 62-52, at Loyola College.
Now, it's on to Cumberland and the 46th annual Alhambra tournament at Frostburg State.
The top-ranked Gaels finished their regular season 36-0, including capturing the BCL regular-season and tournament titles and the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship.
Mount St. Joseph already owns the metro-area record for wins in a season and now is just one shy of the state record of 37.
With Maryland coach Gary Williams looking on as part of a near-sellout crowd, Louis Birdsong, a 6-foot-6 senior headed to George Mason, led four Gaels in double figures with game highs of 18 points and 10 rebounds. He added the BCL tournament Most Valuable Player award to his regular-season MVP trophy.
"We want to enjoy this for a while before we start thinking about the Alhambra," said coach Pat Clatchey, whose Gaels moved up to No. 8 yesterday in USA Today's Super 25 national rankings.
Mount St. Joseph will be the top seed in the Alhambra in two weeks, opening against host and eighth-seeded Bishop Walsh of Cumberland.
"Louis is such a competitor and just like the rest of our team does whatever it takes," Clatchey added. "The thing I will always remember about this team is their mental toughness and poise."
After taking a 33-25 lead at the half, the Gaels were up 44-35 after three periods, and Kevin Swecker (14 points) hit the last two of his four threes to spark a 10-5 run and 54-40 lead with 3:26 left.
Dejuan Goodwin (10 points) joined Birdsong and Chase Adams (14) on the All-Tournament team. Adams, who will play at Centenary in Shreveport, La., sank six straight free throws in the final minute to secure his team's fourth consecutive win over the No. 4 Owls (27-10).
Just last week, Mount St. Joseph defeated the Owls, 64-49, for the MIAA A Conference crown.
"Coach told us to focus on it being one game and not a fourth," said Birdsong, who transferred from Randallstown two years ago. "It's great to bring the championship back home to St. Joe. This is my first and it was one of my goals going into this year."
The Gaels' 36th win broke their state tie with St. Maria Goretti, which was 35-5 in 1986-87 under Cokey Robertson, and moved into a second-place tie with the Morgan Wootten-coached DeMatha team of 1962-63 (36-4). Wootten, who is the state's all-time winningest basketball coach at 1,274-192 (.869) in 46 seasons, had a Maryland-record 10 30-win seasons.
Riverdale Baptist holds the Maryland record for wins in a season, going 37-7 in 1999-2000.
Mount St. Joe can break that mark by winning at least two games of the three it will play in the Alhambra tournament during St. Patrick's Day weekend.
If the Gaels should sweep, they would finish 39-0 and have their first-ever Alhambra title and only the fourth ever by a BCL team in the 46 years of the event.