Forgive the John Carroll basketball team if it felt as if it was watching a sequel to a bad movie.
Wednesday afternoon in Bel Air, the Patriots hosted Calvert Hall in a pre-Thanksgiving Baltimore Catholic League basketball appetizer and the visiting Cardinals rallied from 11 points down, in the final two minutes, and pulled out a stunning 64-63 win, on a buzzer beating tip-in by senior Austin Griffiths.
Although the stakes were not nearly as high this time, the scene was eerily similar to Calvert Hall’s 1-point win over John Carroll in last year’s BCL Tournament title game, won on an overtime tip-in by current senior star Justin Gorham.
On Wednesday’s final play, Calvert Hall’s Dyante Dowdy drove into the lane and then stepped back for a 7-foot jumper. The shot came up short off the front of the rim, but Dowdy drew the John Carroll defense to him, leaving the center of the lane wide open for Griffiths to rise and tap the ball back into the cylinder as the buzzer sounded. It was only the senior’s second bucket of the contest, but it proved to be the biggest of the game for the Cardinals.
“I thought Te was going to hit it. We drew up a play and the play didn’t go how we wanted it to go, but we got the tip-in. That’s all that matters,” said Griffiths. “It was crazy. I just got up there; I knew I had to finish. Coach was telling me all game I had to get rebounds.”
John Carroll appeared well on its way to victory when it outscored the Cardinals 10-3 at the start of the fourth quarter, turning a 51-47 lead into a 61-50 advantage. However, the Patriots slowed down the pace of the game and made a handful of turnovers that contributed to seven consecutive Calvert Hall points, as the Cardinals pulled back within four at 61-57.
John Carroll still appeared to be in good shape when sophomore Immanuel Quickly, who lead the Patriots with 22 points, hit a driving layup with less than a minute to play, boosting the JC lead back to six.
Calvert Hall sophomore guard Josh Cornish, who lead all scorers with 23 points, drained a pair of free-throws, with 40.7 seconds left, and after John Carroll’s Kevin Kangu missed on the front end of a one-and-one, Cornish drilled his fourth three-pointer of the night to pull the Cardinals within one, at 63-62, with 26.1 seconds remaining.
“It just tried to get open and get in open spots in scoring zones, so I could hit the open shots for my teammates, which needed me,” said Cornish of his big shooting night.
Calvert Hall then sent JC’s Monty Urmilevicius to the line, with 24.7 seconds to play, and again the Patriots failed on the front end of the one-and-one. That gave Calvert Hall the final possession and a chance to create the game-winning opportunity.
John Carroll did not trail in the first half and lead by as many as six in the second quarter, but Calvert Hall hung around and pulled within one before the break. Midway through the third quarter, Calvert Hall went on a 9-4 spurt to take its first lead of the game and build its biggest margin at four. Dowdy scored all eight of his points in the contest during the third quarter to help fuel the Calvert Hall surge. The Patriots, however, closed the quarter with a 10-2 rush to lead 51-47 heading into the final quarter.
Outside shooting was the key for the Cardinals and, according to Calvert Hall head coach John Bauersfeld, it will continue to be critical as the season progresses.
“We’re not that big and John Carroll did a really good job in the second half, pounding the ball inside and making plays there,” said Bauersfeld. “I think we just got enough timely shots to go down and keep us in the game, and give us a chance. We got a couple of great rebounds off missed free throws and we were able to push and make a play.”
Calvert Hall and John Carroll are both young and vastly different from the squads that battled in last year’s BCL final. John Carroll graduated BCL MVP Kimbal Mackenzie, as well as senior stars Eli Long and Malik Tyne, while Calvert Hall bid farewell to stars Drew Edwards, Nico Clareth, Evan Phoenix and Reggie Rouse.
Of course, Gorham, the key player in the championship game’s decisive play, is back for the Cardinals and he made a major contribution in Wednesday’s win, scoring 19 points and coming up big defensively and on the boards.
“He did a great job,” said Bauersfeld of Gorham, who will play at Towson University next year. “Defensively, he did a great job. He got rebounds when he needed to and the great thing about him, even though he’s been there before, he’s allowing these other guys; he’s got confidence in them to make plays.”
One thing that did not depart was the intensity of this rivalry and, obviously, the flair for the dramatic.
“It’s huge for a young team. To win on the road in the Catholic League is incredibly difficult,” said Bauersfeld. “To win here is very difficult. I don’t think a Calvert Hall team has won here in six or seven years. It’s been a long time.”
Griffiths agreed that the victory will have a positive impact on the Cardinals as they move forward.
“It definitely gives us a lot of confidence,” said Griffiths. “We came in here knowing we could beat them, so this definitely will give us a lot confidence down the road.”
According to John Carroll coach Tony Martin, his squad will take some positives from this game as well.
“Déjá vu,” said Martin. “Experience is the great equalizer. This inexperienced, but very talented group needs to go through the fire.”
The Patriots played without sophomore starting point guard Junior Farquhar who watched the game in a boot after injuring his foot in John Carroll’s win over Mount Carmel on Monday. Farquhar already has three high Division 1 offers and is being actively recruited by Ohio State and Michigan State.
Beyond Quickley’s 22 points, John Carroll got balanced scoring from its other starters. Senior Mike Tertsea, who is headed to Rhode Island, had 10 points while doing great work on the glass, while Nemanja Knezevic and Jahbrill Price-Noel finished with nine points each and Nate Roberts had eight.
“Trust we will learn from our mistakes and be a much different team in the second half of the year,” concluded Martin.
CALVERT HALL 64, JOHN CARROLL 63
CH 15 15 17 17 — 64
JC 17 14 20 12 — 63
CALVERT HALL: Dowdy 8, Gorham 19, Adams 7, Griffiths 4, Briggs 2, Cornish 22, Ilardo 2. TOTALS: 23 10-12 64.
JOHN CARROLL: Kangu 5, Knezevic 9, Tertsea 10, Urmilevicius 2, Price-Noel 9, Quickley 22, Roberts 6. TOTALS: 25 10-14