John Carroll's Mike Owona, left, and Malcolm McMillan,… (Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina…)
It was late in the third quarter of Sunday's Baltimore Catholic League semifinal game when John Carroll coach Tony Martin barked from across the court, seeking out the attention of his senior captain, Malcolm McMillan.
Mount St. Joseph was giving the No. 2 Patriots all they could handle, but McMillan, who earned BCL co-Player of the Year honors earlier in the week, provided a quick, reassuring nod.
In the final quarter, he did even more, and his teammates followed his lead.
McMillan scored seven of his team-high 21 points, added two blocks in a key late defensive possession and iced the game with two free throws with two seconds left to help John Carroll reach Tuesday night's BCL title game with a 56-52 win over No. 9 Mount St. Joseph at Loyola University.
John Carroll, which has already captured the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship, improved to 31-2 on the season. As they've done all season, the Patriots, who also got 15 points from senior guard Ronald Scott, did the little things when it was most important to survive a determined effort from the Gaels.
"I just kept thinking this was my senior year and we didn't want to go out this way, especially in the BCL," McMillan said. "The important thing was [we] just kept playing and we all stuck together — nobody panicked or didn't anything out of character. This is what we've worked hard for all year."
As expected, the berth in Tuesday's 7 p.m. title game at Loyola University didn't come easy for the Patriots. The Gaels, who got a game-high 23 points from freshman Phil Booth and finished the season with a 22-10 mark, handed the Patriots their only league loss — a 65-61 setback Feb. 11.
Leading by one in the final minute, the Patriots got an inside basket from Kamau Stokes off an interior pass from senior Jarred Jones for a 51-48 lead with 50 seconds left. On the Gaels' next possession, McMillan swatted away Booth's shot and got a piece of another shot before Scott finished off a fast break for a 53-48 lead. The Gaels would go on to cut the lead to 54-52 on a basket from sophomore guard Kameron Williams (12 points) with four seconds left before McMillan's closing free throws.
No. 7 St. Frances 60, Calvert Hall 53: Relying on the experience of senior captains R.J. Williams and Greg Lewis, along with a key contribution from the bench, the Panthers pushed forward to Tuesday's BCL final against John Carroll..
Williams, the other co-Player of the Year, took control in the second half, finishing with a game-high 20 points, while Lewis scored 16. Sophomore guard Maurice White came off the bench to score nine of his 11 points in the second half to help shake off the scrappy Cardinals.
Things won't get easier for St. Frances (19-6) on Tuesday. John Carroll already has three unanswered wins against the Panthers this season — most recently a 70-58 victory Feb. 20 for the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship.
That was clearly on the Panthers' minds after Sunday's win.
What's it going to take for them to capture the program's eighth BCL championship?
"Defense," Williams said. "They got to the basket easy [in the MIAA title game], and we let them do what they wanted to getting to the basket. We got to play defense."
With Calvert Hall trailing 36-34 in the final minute of the third quarter, White provided the Panthers with valuable separation they would sustain throughout the fourth quarter. He scored an inside basket off a feed from Williams with 40 seconds left in the third and hit two straight jumpers early in the fourth for a 42-36 advantage. Lewis scored three inside baskets and Williams made all six of his free throws in the final two minutes to assure victory.
Despite his team's setback, Calvert Hall coach John Bauersfeld was pleased with the effort and the young team's progress during a 15-15 season after losing all five starters from last year's BCL championship team. Junior Justin Beck scored 13 points to lead the Cardinals, who will lose only two seniors to graduation.
"From start to finish, all you can ask from a team is to improve, and they did that. I'm really proud of them," Bauersfeld said.
2 JOHN CARROLL 56, 9 MOUNT ST. JOSEPH 52
MSJ—Booth 23, Williams 12, Lawrence 3, Stephenson 3, Morton 2, Long 3, Windsor 4, Nardolillo 2. Totals: 18 13-19 52.
JC—Scott 15, McMillan 21, M. Owona 5, Jones 7, Elliott 5, Stokes 3. Totals: 20 14-24 56.
Half: M, 31-28s
7 ST. FRANCES 60, CALVERT HALL 53
CH—Beck 13, Johnson 12, Richardson 10, Bosse 2, Wade 12, McVan 2, Davis 2. Totals: 21 6-10 53.
SF—Williams 20, Forney 4, Lewis 16, Brown 2, White 11, Tarver 2, A. Costley 4, T. Costley 1. Totals: 22 16-22 60.
Half: SF, 24-18