No. 11 Cavaliers hold off Loyola, continues postseason push; Whitmore and Pennick combine for 37 (VIDEO HERE!)
by Derek Toney
A year ago, Archbishop Spalding High boys basketball went into February hoping to end a difficult season on a positive note. Now, the Cavaliers are in position for the postseason.
No. 11 Spalding defeated 13th-ranked Loyola Blakefield, 58-56, in a MIAA A Conference/Baltimore Catholic League contest in Towson. Sophomore forward Cam Whitmore finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, Jordan Pennick added 18.
The Anne Arundel County school led by as many as 16 points before fending off a Don rally to improve to 13-8 overall and 9-6 in MIAA A play, a half-game ahead of Loyola (15-9, 8-6 MIAA A) for the fourth and final postseason spot out of the Red Division. The top four teams in the Black and Red divisions will advance to the MIAA A playoffs.
Spalding won six games last season.
Cavaliers’ first-year coach Josh Pratt was elated to see his young team keep their composure in a tough MIAA A/BCL road contest.
“My sophomores really stepped up today,” said Pratt. “It’s a learning experience…we got to finish games strong down the stretch with free throws, but we just try to find a way at the end.”
“We know we had to get this win because we want to go into the MIAA A playoffs,” said Pennick, one of four starting sophomores. “We know we secure a spot in the BCL…Our mentality was we got to punch them straight in the mouth.”
The Cavaliers, who moved into third-place (6-4) in the BCL, built a 37-21 advantage late in the first half before settling for a 37-25 advantage. Pennick, a 5-foot-10 guard, and Whitmore combined for 27 points.
But Loyola, which won at Spalding, 59-56, in late December rallied in the second half. The Dons pulled to within 44-41 late in the third quarter on a basket from Matt Fischer.
Loyola was down 48-45 after John Dixon’s basket with 5:47 left in regulation, but Spalding responded. Whitmore got an offensive rebound and score, followed by a free throw from Ty Peterson.
Pennick came up with a steal and went in for a layup, making it 53-45. The Cavaliers forced another turnover, and Zakee Wheatley dropped a mid-range jumper, pushing their advantage back into double digits at 55-45 with 2:56 left in regulation.
Loyola made one final charge, closing to 55-51 with a minute left, but Spalding got defensive again. Wheatley impeded Gavin Walsh’s second chance look at the basket and C.J. Scott came down with the ball for Spalding.
With the Cavaliers up 56-51 after a Scott free throw with 30 seconds left, Wheatley deflected an outlet pass intended for Fischer. Peterson was fouled and converted two free throws with 22.3 seconds left.
Whitmore said defense and attitude has been the biggest improvements in Spalding since the start of the season.
“At the beginning we didn’t have chemistry but as the season went we’ve developed a relationship and started having good games and good practices,” said Whitmore. “We have a great relationship.”
Loyola coach Josh Davalli has also noticed the Cavaliers progress.
“They have a very promising future. They have guys who can score inside and out, and they’re tough to guard,” said Davalli, whose fell to 4-6 in BCL play. “They don’t necessarily play like sophomores.”
Fischer, a senior forward, finished with a game-high 21 points for Loyola, and Jordan Moore added 14.
Pratt, who won a MIAA A and BCL crown at Towson Catholic in 2007, has seen the young Cavaliers go through the expected ups and downs. He hopes their best basketball is coming in February – the final full month of the season.
Spalding last reached the MIAA A playoffs in 2014.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” said Pratt. “They’re really playing hard.”
No. 11 Archbishop Spalding 58, No. 13 Loyola Blakefield 56
Spalding – Whitmore 19, Pennick 18, Petersen 14, Scott 5, Wheatley 2. Totals 21 10-21 58.
Loyola – Fischer 21, Moore 14, Smith 7, Gioiosi 6, Walsh 5, Dixon 3. Totals 22 7-10 56.
Spalding 20 17 11 11 – 58
Loyola 12 13 18 13 – 56