Late first-half surge lifts John Carroll over St. Frances, 70-58, for MIAA A Conference title

No. 2 Patriots score 7 points in final 90 seconds of first half, pull away from Panthers in second

  • John Carroll basketball players, left to right, Malcolm McMillan, Jarred Jones, Ronald Scott, Jordan Martin, Rodney Elliot and Mike Owona celebrate during the final seconds of their 70-58 victory over St. Frances in the MIAA A Conference championship.
John Carroll basketball players, left to right, Malcolm McMillan,… (Photo for The Baltimore…)
February 20, 2011|By Jeff Seidel, Special to The Baltimore Sun

John Carroll weathered the storm in the first half of Sunday's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship at UMBC.

The No. 2 Patriots shot poorly and got into such bad foul trouble that coach Tony Martin had just one starter on the floor at times.

But John Carroll turned everything around in the final 90 seconds of the half, forcing three quick turnovers that led to seven unanswered points and gave the Patriots the lead for good. Ronald Scott and Malcolm McMillan then helped John Carroll pull away in the second half for a 70-58 victory over No. 6 St. Frances and its first A Conference title.

John Carroll (29-2) took the crown from the Panthers, the two-time defending champions. St. Frances (17-6) has lost all three of its games against John Carroll, but the teams could meet again in the Baltimore Catholic League tournament.

Scott finished with a game-high 23 points, and McMillan added 17 as St. Frances couldn't slow the John Carroll guards. Jarred Jones had 12 points, and the Patriots stopped a few late St. Frances runs by making 23 of 29 free throws.

But John Carroll missed 20 of 29 shots from the field in the first half, and the foul trouble forced Martin to go deep into his bench early and often.

Martin decided to step up the defensive pressure after St. Frances called timeout with 90 seconds left and the score tied at 20.

"We felt that we had to go into the locker room up," McMillan said. "We had to just turn it up a little bit."

John Carroll used full-court pressure after the timeout, something Martin hadn't done much in the game. The strategy worked as the Patriots forced a steal almost immediately that led to a layup by Rodney Elliott and a 22-20 lead with 1:14 left.

John Carroll drew a charging foul nine seconds later and eventually got two free throws from McMillan with 32.3 seconds remaining. The Patriots pressured the Panthers into another turnover seven seconds after that, and Kamau Stokes made a 3-pointer from the right corner — after a slick pass from McMillan — with two seconds left for a 27-20 halftime lead.

"That [run] was critical," Martin said. "I think that changed the game."

Scott and McMillan took over in the second half, combining for 14 of the 17 third-quarter points that stretched the John Carroll lead to 44-30. Scott scored eight on the strength of two 3-pointers, and McMillan added six in the period.

"We always come out strong after halftime," Scott said. "We try to break the other team, so we do what we need to do."

R.J. Williams scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter to help the Panthers rally. Shakir Brown added nine of his 16 as St. Frances cut the lead to six but couldn't get any closer.

St. Frances coach Mark Karcher also felt the final 90 seconds of the first half changed the game. He went to younger players on his bench to try to shake things up and give them big-game experience, but they struggled.

"I was playing cards," Karcher said. "I'm a gambling man. I want my kids to be in these big games, and my freshmen and my sophomores and my juniors … I want them to get used to these big games. We'll be back."

The victory was especially meaningful to John Carroll, which rebounded from a tough 9-18 season last year.

"We came from nothing last year, from 9-18 with people laughing at us," McMillan said. "Now, we're MIAA A Conference champions."

S—Williams 16, Brown 16, Tarver 3, A. Costley 5, T. Costley 3, White 7, Lewis 2, Forney 6. Totals: 20 18-27 58.

J—Elliott 2, Scott 23, Martin 3, McMillan 17, Frink 2, Stokes 8, M. Owona 3, Jones 12. Totals: 21 23-29 70.

Half: JC, 27-20.

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