Fischer scores 16 to lead 19th-ranked Dons to sixth win

by Joe DiBlasi

No. 19 Loyola Blakefield nailed some clutch free throws down the stretch, and overcame four fourth quarter three-pointers by host Archbishop Spalding, to secure a 59-56 MIAA A Conference/Baltimore Catholic League win over the 15th-ranked Cavaliers on Friday night in Anne Arundel County.

Loyola senior Mitch Fischer led all scorers with 16 points.

The Dons started strong, with 10 quick points in the first three minutes of play, getting seven points from sophomore RJ Johnson, and a deep trey from senior Mitch Fischer to grab an early 10-2 lead over the Cavaliers.

Spalding answered with a run of its own, and the see-saw battle was on.

The Dons held a 19-14 lead after the first eight minutes of action, but the Cavs’ sophomore Ty Peterson poured in nine second quarter points to give Spalding a 32-30 halftime lead.

A smothering Loyola defense, in the third stanza, held first-year Spalding coach Josh Pratt’s sophomore-laden team to just four points (two from the floor and two from the free throw line) to regain a 44-36 lead going into the final quarter.

Spalding would not go away, and behind some hot shooting from sophomore Josh Rivers (three clutch 3’s) the Cavs pulled ahead, 49-48, midway through the fourth quarter.

Rece Gardner answered for the Dons with a deuce at the 4:32 mark to give his team a 50-49 advantage, and from there, Loyola’s performance from the three throw line made the difference.

The Dons (6-4 overall, 3-2 MIAA A, 1-1 BCL) were 18-for-26 from the charity stripe on the night, hitting eight straight at one point down the stretch. Junior Cam Smith nailed two clutch free throws with five seconds left and then stole the ensuing inbounds bounds pass from Spalding to seal the win.

Dons’ veteran Coach Josh Davalli, who is now in his 15th year at the helm at Blakefield said, “We knew coming down here to Spalding on a Friday night, that it would be very difficult to get a win. They have some great wins, and we’re still finding our way a little bit. But tonight was a step in the right direction for us.

“Spalding is a very good team. They have a lot of good shooters and they go on runs offensively. This was a really intense Baltimore Catholic/A conference game. We came out with a really good amount of intensity and energy, and our kids didn’t back down when they rallied. We played great defense, and despite their run we were able to maintain our composure.”

Pratt said that his young team needs to play better down the stretch, and be more aware of time and score.

Despite hitting 9 threes on the night, Pratt, who was 98-40 with two A Conference and one BCL championship at Towson Catholic from 2006 thru 2010, said, “We can’t settle for jump shots. We need to drive to the basket and kick the ball out to our shooters. We need to go to the basket more frequently to get more trips to the free-throw line.”

Spalding (5-5, 5-3 MIAA A, 2-2 BCL) was only 7-for-12 from the line on Friday night while Loyola was 18-for-26.

Fischer, who led all scorers with 16 points for the Dons, said, “We came in with the mindset we had to win here. We played hard and did whatever it took. They are a very tough and physical team and especially tough in their home gym, where they have a great atmosphere. We willed ourselves to this win.”

LOYOLA 19 11 14 15 — 59
SPALDING 14 18 4 20 — 56
LOYOLA: Smith 5, Moore 8, Gardner 8, Fischer 16, Dixon 3, Johnson 11, Koras 3, Walsh 3, Gioioso 3.
ARCHBISHOP SPALDING: Akers 7, Scott 10, Peterson 11, Bouknight 7, Pennick 3, Rivers 9, Elung 2, Whitmore 7.