Above: (from left) Jaylin Andrews, Sam Grace and Cameron Spencer all came through in the clutch to help Boys’ Latin prevail
Boys’ Latin hangs on against No. 6 St. Vincent Pallotti for first MIAA A basketball final four berth
by Joe DiBlasi
Boys’ Latin School never trailed in Tuesday’s MIAA A Conference basketball quarterfinal playoff game with sixth-ranked St. Vincent Pallotti, in Roland Park. However, the No. 5 Lakers’ thrilling 56-54 victory, which advanced them into Thursday’s semifinal round at top-ranked St. Frances Academy, was no walk in the park.
In the end, it took a lot of defensive grit, some clutch shooting and a little Grace to get Boys’ Latin (24-7 overall) into its first MIAA A final four match.
The Grace came in the form of junior guard Sam Grace, a four-sport standout, who drained a pressure packed three-pointer, with just 10 seconds to play, breaking a 53-53 tie and providing what ultimately proved to be the winning margin.
Following Grace’s trey, Pallotti pushed the ball up court where junior Ronnell Giles was fouled while attempting a would-be game-tying three pointer. The shot did not go, but Giles did go to the line, with 0.2 seconds to play, with a chance to tie the game.
After his first shot came up short, he made the second and then intentionally missed the third in hopes that one of his teammates could tip-in a tying bucket. That did not happen and the Lakers survived with the win.
Grace, who kicks and punts of the BL football team and stars on the soccer and baseball teams, came off the bench in the closing sequence specifically to be in position to take that type of shot.
“It was a great shot by Sammy,” said Boys’ Latin coach Cliff Rees. “That’s why we have him in the game. He’s one of our best shooters if not the best. When he gets in the game he doesn’t need a lot of time to heat up. He comes in the game making shots. I am very proud of him for making that.”
Rees made sure to point out the other key contributors who were absolutely vital to the victory.
“Jaylin (Andrews) made a bunch of jumpers, but he attacked extremely well and out in transition. Cam (Spencer) always makes the big shots when we need them and he’s very steady for us, and Chris (Bates) has really been stepping up for us, especially on the defensive end. Tonight he made a couple of nice plays on the offensive end as well.”
“In the time out, Coach drew up the play and we were supposed to get Cam the ball and I saw him coming up the court,” said Grace of Jaylin Andrews, the school’s all-time leading scorer. “I knew I had to get to the corner and I knew I was going to be wide open. He has great court vision and he saw me all the way.”
Andrews actually fed the ball to the wing to junior Cameron Spencer, who got the winning assist when he funneled into the corner where Grace was abandoned by the Panther defense.
“We put in our snipers, Sam and Cam,” said Andrews. “When Sammy gets to the corner that’s a perfect shot. He hits it all the time in practice. I got it to Cam and and he got it to Sam. I knew when he had the ball in his hands it was going to be a good shot.”
Although Giles was unable to convert the late free throws for Pallotti, he was the primary reason Coach Dennis Murphy’s Panthers were in position to challenge at the end.
Pallotti (23-10) trailed at the half by eight and the Panthers were down 42-35 after three quarters. Giles, a 6-foot-4 junior guard, poured in 10 points in the 4th quarter to make the game close. He finished the night with 18 points to lead the Panthers and teammate Sam Cannady had 11, seven of which came in the final stanza.
Boys Latin’ was led by Andrews’ 21 points. Andrews also did an outstanding job of creating off his dribble, driving to the hole or drawing the defense and kicking it in or out to an open man.
Spencer, who nailed a deep three to close out the first half and spark the Lakers as they went to the locker room at intermission, finished with 14, as did senior Kenny Lewis.
Spencer pointed out that Grace produced the assist on his second quarter three.
“He (Grace) handed me the ball off and (the defender) was over-playing me. I had to spin to get a shot off and a luckily I made it. They did a great job of attacking us, off of those ball screens. We didn’t do a good job and we were fouling shooters. They are a tough team. They came back on us last time too. They always fight to the end.”
With his team’s season now complete, Murphy preferred to focus on the excellent effort of both teams, rather than any specific moment that may have swayed the outcome.
“First of all, Boys’ Latin is a very good team,” said Murphy. “They’ve got good players, obviously; Cliff does a great job and we knew they were the two seed for a reason.
“In playoff basketball you have to raise your level. I thought their kids played hard. I thought we battled. We got down early. You have to give the kid credit, (Grace) hit the three in the corner. It was a big shot, but my kids have battled all year and I am proud of my guys.”
In Tuesday’s other MIAA A quarterfinal games, St. Frances dispatched Mount Carmel, 64-42; second-ranked Mount St. Joseph pushed past McDonogh School, 49-40; and No. 3 John Carroll School routed Calvert Hall College, 88-72.
St. Joe will travel to John Carroll Thursday in a semifinal with BL taking on St. Frances. The winners advance to Sunday’s final at Harford Community College..
MIAA A CONFERENCE QUARTERFINAL
NO. 5 BOYS’ LATIN SCHOOL 56, NO. 6 ST. VINCENT PALLOTTI 54
PALLOTTI 12 11 12 19 — 54
BOYS’ LATIN 15 17 10 14 — 56
ST. VINCENT PALLOTTI: Martin. 5, Cannady. 11, Giles 18, Otoo 6, Warrick 6, Carter 2, Mallory 4, Oshinnaiye 2. TOTALS 21 9-19 54.
BOYS’ LATIN: Andrews. 21, Spencer. 14, Lewis 14, Watts 2, Grace 3, Bates 2. TOTALS 21 9-16 56.
NOTE: VSN broadcast the Boys’ Latin-St. Vincent Pallotti game via Facebook Live and you can see the entire broadcast on the VSN Facebook page.