No. 3 Gaels advance to MIAA A basketball championship and another showdown with St. Frances
by Joe DiBlasi
After escaping its quarterfinal playoff game against St. Vincent Pallotti High with a two-point victory on Tuesday, third-ranked Mount St. Joseph appeared headed for another tight finish, Thursday in Irvington, as the Gaels entered the fourth quarter of their semifinal battle against No. 12 Archbishop Spalding with just a three-point advantage.
The Gaels (26-5 overall), however, found another gear in the final stanza and sprinted away from the feisty Cavaliers for a 55-43 win and a spot in Sunday’s MIAA A Conference Championship Game, at Harford Community College (5:30 p.m.), against its long-time rival, top-ranked St. Frances Academy. St. Frances routed No. 11 John Carroll School, 98-71, in Thursday’s other semifinal.
The Gaels split the regular season with the Cavaliers (18-11), including a 67-56 home loss to the Cavs, two weeks ago. The Anne Arundel County squad has been on the rise ever since and loomed as a dangerous threat to the Gaels.
This semifinal was tied 11-11 after one quarter, 21-21 at the half, and 30-30 with thirty seconds to go in the third quarter, before St. Joe’s sharp-shooting southpaw Ausar Crawley swished a trey to give the Irvington school a three-point lead that it would never relinquish.
Crawley, a junior, also hit a three two minutes earlier, when he broke a 27-27 tie, and he drilled a trey to start the scoring in the fourth quarter to give the Gaels a 36-30 lead. Crawley finished the game with 13 points, all in the second half.
From there, the Mount converted 9-of-10 from the free throw line, while the Cavs were 4-for-10, which drastically hurt their chances of getting back in the game.
Senior Jason Edokpayi lead the Mount with a huge double-double, scoring 16 points while hauling down 14 rebounds.
“It seemed like we had a good game plan and Tyler (Brelsford) did a great job defending (Cam) Whitmore,” said Edokpayi. “We only hit five out of nine of our free throws in the first half, and we needed to make every free throw in the second half and that’s how we put them away.”
Experience in close games paid off according to Crawley.
“We’ve been in a lot of tough battles,” said Crawly, who also starred on the Gaels’ MIAA A Conference championship football team. “I’m a three-year varsity player and this was nothing new to me. I knew how to handle it. I had three fouls early, but I knew I had to keep my head in the game, and when I got back in there I was going to be an impact.
“I was waiting on my turn and once I got in I did what I was supposed to do.”
Clatchey praised the efforts of Crawley and Edokpayi, while underscoring the job that Tyler Brelsford did on Spalding’s high scoring Cam Whitmore.
“Tyler’s defense was really outstanding, and after Ausar picked up his third foul Tyler had to play the point, and he did the job,” said Clatchey. “I told the team at halftime when the game was tied, that we had to keep defending and make stops. After we got up by 8-10 points, we went to a zone, which stopped their penetration and helped us get some time off the clock. The zone was really effective.”
The second half turnaround at the charity stripe was also a key for Clatchey.
“In the first half we were 5-for-9 from the foul line, and when you’re in the playoffs and in the hunt for a championship, you can’t leave points out there. Our team understood the importance of that, and we did much better in the second half from the line.”
Pratt said it’s always about rebounds, free throws and turnovers, and you’ve got to win at least two out of three of those.
“We missed some free throws, but I give a lot of credit to Mount St. Joe; they hit enough shots on the night to win,” said Pratt. “We could have rebounded better, and executed better down the stretch. They have some great quality players.”
Whitmore lead the Cavs with 12 points and Jordan Pennick added 11.
MIAA A CONFERENCE BASKETBALL SEMIFINAL
NO. 3 MOUNT ST. JOSEPH 55, NO. 12 ARCHBISHOP SPALDING 43
AS 11 10 9 13 — 43
MSJ 11 10 12 22 — 55
ARCHBISHOP SPALDING: Scott. 10, Peterson 10, Pennick 11, Whitmore 12.
MOUNT ST. JOSEPH: Brelsford 6, Edokpayi. 16, Crawley 13, Carr 1, Stines 10, Hamlin 9.