St. Frances handed Mount St. Joseph a 13-point loss last Thursday in a South Carolina holiday tournament. The Panthers got off to another good start when the two teams met again Tuesday night, holding the host Gaels scoreless for the first four minutes.
But Eric Atkins took over shortly after that. The Notre Dame-bound guard scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the final 12 minutes of the first half to help No. 3 Mount St. Joseph take command, and the Gaels rolled to a 56-46 victory over No. 2 St. Frances in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League game.
Mount St. Joseph (14-2, 6-0 MIAA, 5-0 BCL) definitely remembered that loss last week. Atkins said St. Frances (9-5, 2-1, 2-1) beat the Gaels often off the dribble and drove right to the basket, and Mount St. Joseph didn't want a repeat of that performance.
"They got to the rim at will last week," Atkins said. "This week, that was what we focused on."
Atkins' great offensive start helped the defense. He scored 10 straight points and 13 of 16 as Mount St. Joseph took an 18-9 lead with 4:27 left in the half, letting the defense play more aggressively. The Gaels repeatedly cut off St. Frances drives and always had a hand in someone's face.
Simply put, the Panthers didn't get any easy shots this time.
"I knew it was going to be a different game," St. Frances coach Mark Karcher said. "Tonight, they had the energy."
St. Frances never got closer than four points, even though the Panthers raised the intensity in the fourth quarter. But the Gaels answered as Ryley Beaumont (18 points) got six points in the final period and came up with two key defensive rebounds to stop a few St. Frances rallies.
Matt Miller (10 points) also made six clutch free throws in the fourth quarter. Greg Lewis led St. Frances with 12 points and Wayne Sparrow added 10. The Panthers pushed the Gaels again, but Mount St. Joseph had the answers this time.
"You better come to compete and play at high levels in this league," said Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey. The Gaels were "more intense, more focused, understanding what it took."
St. Frances - Williams 9, Sparrow 10, Cook 5, Tarver 2, Lewis 12, Cassell 9. Totals 19 6-8 46.
Mount St. Joseph - Windsor 6, Miller 10, Beaumont 18, Atkins 20, Clinton 2. Totals 18 15-19 56. Half: MSJ, 24-18.