St. Frances, St. Paul's win boys MIAA championships

No. 2 Panthers beat No. 1 Mount St. Joseph's, 63-56, for A title

  • St. Frances' R.J. Williams goes up against Mount St. Joseph's Gavin Stephenson during the fourth quarter.
St. Frances' R.J. Williams goes up against Mount St. Joseph's… (Baltimore Sun photo by Amy…)
February 22, 2010|By By Glenn Graham

All through the regular season, the No. 2 St. Frances boys basketball team has played in the shadow of No. 1 Mount St. Joseph.

In Sunday's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship game at UMBC, the Panthers impressively showed who were the defending league champions.

After gaining a decided advantage in the third quarter, the Panthers watched the Gaels climb back to within one point in the closing minutes - finding the answers at both ends from there to come away with a 63-56 win.

It's the second straight and third overall MIAA crown for the Panthers, who improved to 21-8 this season. Mount St. Joseph, which went 12-0 in the league's regular season, sees its 16-game winning streak come to an end as it falls to 28-3 on the season. The Gaels' previous loss came against St. Frances in a holiday tournament on Dec. 31, but they avenged it with two regular-season wins over the Panthers.

On Sunday, the Panthers started a 12-2 run late in the third quarter that provided a 52-43 lead early in the fourth. When the Gaels cut the lead to 55-54 on senior guard Eric Atkins' spinning layup with 2:29 to play, the Panthers responded with timely baskets, pestering defense and key free throws to come out on top.

St. Frances point guard R.J. Williams answered Atkins' basket on the Panthers' next possession to give the Panthers a 57-54 lead, and he later added a key steal. Greg Lewis, Wayne Sparrow and Dante Holmes all hit two free throws at the end.

"It all comes down to the playoffs for us - winning championships. We wanted to come out and play hard defense. Hard defense leads to offense, and they both win games. We win games in the second half - mainly in the fourth quarter - but in the third it looked like it came to us then. We just wanted to come out and defend our title from last year and we did," said Holmes, who scored 10 of his team-high 14 points in the third quarter.

Sparrow added 13 points and Williams finished 10 in a balanced St. Frances offense.

"I think they were more focused. This was a championship game - we needed this. For the seniors, this was their last one, and you want to go out with a bang. Wayne Sparrow, Dante Holmes - they contributed a lot to the program - the goal for me was to help them win their last championship game. That was the key," St. Frances coach Mark Karcher said.

The Gaels, who have been doing the little things all season long to close out wins, couldn't find the answers Sunday despite 17 points each from seniors Ryley Beaumont and Matt Miller.

"We definitely lacked on defense, especially in the third quarter when they took the lead. To me that was the biggest part, just the defensive intensity, and that's really it," said Atkins, who finished with 15 points. "It was surprising, and I'm not sure what happened, but we're ready to bounce back."

B Conference
St. Paul's 54, Archbishop Curley 51 (OT): With the game tied at 51, senior guard Winfield Willis converted a 3-point play with 5.2 seconds left in overtime to send the Crusaders past the upset-minded Friars.

Willis finished with a game-high 17 points. Fellow seniors Virgil Davis (14 points) and Andrew Barton (13) also reached double figures for the winners.

St. Paul's, which upset top-seeded Glenelg Country, 73-48, in the semifinals, finishes its season with a 15-7 mark while the Friars close out at 11-14.

With a little more than a minute left in overtime, the Crusaders called timeout and held the ball for the last shot. Willis was ready to make the difference, getting the ball up top with 15 seconds left and starting his drive through the middle shortly after.

"Our coach told us in the huddle if they come out and try to play us, we have to attack them. That's our offense - be aggressive and attack. This is special - definitely special. We worked three years for this and finally got it," Willis said.

2 St. Frances 63 1 Mount St. Joseph 56
SF-Holmes 15, Sparrow 13, Lewis 8, Williams 10, Cassell Jr. 9, Goines 8. Totals: 19 22-30 63.

MSJ-Miller 17, Atkins 15, Beaumont 17, Morton 4, Windsor 2, Clinton 1. Totals: 19 10-18 56.Half: MSJ, 28-25..

St. Paul's 54 Arch. Curley 51 ( OT)
AC-Miles 16, Singletary 11, Wilson 5, Wade 4, McCray 12, Harrison 3. Totals: 19 12-16 51.

SP-Willis 17, Barton 13, Sydnor 4, Williams 3, Davis 14, Brooks 3. Totals: 21 11-17 54.Half: AC, 29-24.

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