In a free wielding, uptempo MIAA A Conference basketball quarterfinal playoff game, Tuesday night in Bel Air, visiting and unranked Calvert Hall played brilliant offensive basketball for much of the night and emerged with an 84-78 victory over No. 8 John Carroll.
The win sends the Cardinals into Thursday’s semifinals, as they will visit Mount Carmel (6:30 p.m.), in a battle for a spot in Sunday’s MIAA A Conference championship game. Mount St. Joseph will host McDonogh in Thursday’s other semifinal.
Both teams raced up and down the court all night, but the Cardinals (14-17) displayed more weapons in leading wire-to-wire, holding a 71-50 advantage with 5 minutes, 25 seconds to play in the contest, before the host Patriots (21-12) made things interesting in the final minutes. It was Calvert Hall’s first win over the Patriots in three tries this winter.
With junior star Immanuel Quickley scoring 16 of his game-high 33 points in the fourth quarter, John Carroll got within five, at 81-76, with 58 seconds to play, but the Cardinals were able to make just enough free throws in the final seconds to hold onto the lead and claim the victory.
“You never think any lead is big enough with Montez (Mathis) and Immanuel on the other side,” said Calvert Hall coach John Bauersfeld. “We knew a run was coming. We just had to make enough plays to survive. By no means did we think we were going to win this game by 25 points.”
While Quickley got red-hot late, Calvert Hall junior Brendan Adams had his stroke cooking all night. Adams scored a team-high 28 points, including seven in the fourth quarter, and classmate Josh Cornish poured in 26 points.
“The game was real intense,” said Adams. “That’s the third time we’ve played them. The first two games were both intense. We came out running, with a heavy pace, and came out intense.”
Leading 14-13 late in the first quarter, Adams and Cornish each scored on slashing drives to send the Cardinals to the first break with a five-point advantage.
The two teams combined for 45 points in the second quarter, with Cornish scoring 11 points in the frame to help Calvert Hall double its lead to 43-33 at the half.
Because his offense was so efficient, Bauersfeld had the luxury of playing his defense straight up against the John Carroll stars.
“We just tried not to complicate things defensively. We just tried to jump to the ball and if they had the ball, we pressured the ball,” said Bauersfeld. “We weren’t going to play something crazy where we were just doubling people. We just tried to sit down and guard as best we could. We did a pretty good job with three-pointers. In the fourth quarter they started turning it up on us, but luckily, offensively, our team played very well.”
With 1:23 play in the third quarter, the Cardinals launched a 10-2 spurt, with Adams scoring a pair of baskets and Cornish draining two three-pointers. The charge continued in the early stages of the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run which put the Cardinals on top, 71-50. The lead was still at 17 points with 3:37 remaining when John Carroll had a 15-3 burst with Quickley scoring 10 of those points.
“We were just trying to stay in front of him,” said Cornish of Calvert Hall’s approach to guarding Quickley, one of the most coveted recruits in America. “We knew he could get to the basket and shoot it, so we stayed in front of him and kept outside defense.”
John Carroll played the game without junior forward Qadir Ismail, a tough rebounder and interior defensive presence for the Patriots who suffered a broken nose last week. His absence was felt as the Cardinals repeatedly attacked the basket on the offensive end and controlled the glass over the first three quarters.
Mathis had two spectacular dunks and four three-pointers as he scored 22 points for John Carroll. In addition, freshman Cameron Byers scored 12 points and junior Nigel Haughton added eight points for the Patriots.
John Carroll coach John Zito, in his first year with the Patriots, said simply his team got too far behind.
“We dug ourselves too deep a hole,” said Zito. “I didn’t think we started playing until about five minutes left in the game. So, shame on us.”
Zito also expected a superior effort from the Cardinals.
“This is our third time playing Calvert Hall. It’s hard to beat a team three times. I told the guys this was going to be our toughest game against them yet and that was a fact,” added Zito, who will see his team sit idle until it hosts St. Frances in the opening round of the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament on March 2nd. “They came out very tough. I thought their man-to-man defense bothered us early and I did not like the way we responded. We need to take this as a learning experience going forward, going into next week.”
Sophomore Logan Curtis contributed to Calvert Hall’s cause with 11 points and junior Xavier Gravette pitched in with nine points.
As far as moving forward in the playoffs, Bauersfeld said his team needs more of the same.
“We’ve got to play with the same intensity defensively. We’ve got to close out games a little better. I told them in the locker room, ‘you learned how to win tonight,’ which is big, and we just need to maintain that intensity.”
Adams and Cornish echoed their coach.
“We’ve had the sense since our last regular season game, the playoffs are a whole new season,” said Adams. “We’re 1-0 now and we’re going to try and go all the way and win the championship; win both championships (MIAA and BCL).”
“We knew we had the potential to be one of the best teams in the league this year,” added Cornish. “We started off slow with injuries. Now that we are all together, we know we can win it all.”
MIAA A CONFERENCE BASKETBALL QUARTERFINALS
CALVERT HALL 84, NO. 8 JOHN CARROLL 78
CH 18 25 20 21 — 84
JC 13 20 15 30 — 78
CALVERT HALL: Doughty 4, Curtis 11, Adams 28, Lewis 6, Cornish 26, Gravette 9. TOTALS; 32 13-23 84.
JOHN CARROLL: Saccenti 4, Quickley 33, Haughton 8, Rosaschi 1, Byers 10, Mathis 22. TOTALS 27 14-21 68.