Injured Calvert Hall player Michael Wade (running) joins his… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
For a second straight night in the 39th Baltimore Catholic League playoffs, the Calvert Hall boys basketball team had no choice but to take a good hard look at itself and dig in.
By the end of Monday's title game against No. 1 Mount St. Joseph, the No. 2 Cardinals -- determined, resourceful and resilient -- were looking at championship quality.
Overcoming a 17-point first-half deficit and playing stronger in the final minutes, Calvert Hall earned a 46-44 upset win over the No. 1 Gaels to claim the program's sixth BCL championship and first since 1984.
Senior forward Damion Lee scored 15 points and had 11 rebounds, tournament Most Valuable Player Donya Jackson, whose 29 points keyed the semifinal win over defending champion St. Frances on Sunday, added 13 points as the Cardinals (21-7) avenged two regular-season losses to the BCL regular-season champions.
"There's nothing like this. These are my brothers -- all of them -- and it felt good to win a championship with them. That's what we were talking about three years ago when we were sophomores, so it feels wonderful. I came out every night, and I did what I had to do to help my team win and it's a blessing that I got [the tournament MVP]," Jackson, a senior forward, said.
The Gaels (30-4) came out with tremendous intensity on defense that helped produce a 27-10 lead with 4:16 to play in the first half. But the Cardinals quietly got six points back in the last minutes of the second quarter to cut the lead to 29-18 and coach John Bauersfeld issued a challenge at halftime, telling his senior-oriented group there were 16 minutes left of their high school careers.
The Cardinals opened the second half with nine straight points -- Jackson hitting consecutive baskets, Lee nailing a 3-pointer and senior center Jonathan Graham (nine points) cutting the lead to 29-27 with a strong inside move with 5:38 to play.
Trailing 40-37 after Mount St. Joseph senior guard Eric Atkins (13 points) scored inside following a nifty pass from Gavin Stephenson, the Cardinals went on a 7-0 run with Jackson's 3-pointer in the left corner providng a 44-40 lead with 3:55 to play. The Gaels answered with senior forward Ryley Beaumont (14 points) scoring four straight points to tie the game with 2:20 to play.
Defense dominated at both ends the rest of the way with the Cardinals taking a 45-44 lead on Kyle Wise's free throw with eight seconds left. The Gaels looked to Atkins for the final shot, but his 3-point try fell short and the ball went to the Cardinals. After Lee made one free throw with 1.5 seconds left, Beaumont was able to get a desperation shot past mid-court that was off the mark. The Cardinals bench told the rest of the story.
"Our coach challenged us at halftime, he said we got over one great hump [Sunday]. It was a monumental game beating St. Frances and we just had to step up again [on Monday]. We didn't step up in the first half, but in the second half we all came together," Lee said.
Said Bauersfeld: "It's unbelievable, two games in a row where our backs were against the wall and they just fought and fought and fought. I couldn't be more proud of this group of seniors."
In addition to Jackson earning MVP honors, Lee and Graham also were named to the All-Tournament Team along with Atkins, St. Frances guard Wayne Sparrow and Cardinal Gibbons guard Dylon Cormier.