Mount St. Joseph upends No. 1 St. Frances; Bishop scores 29 (VIDEO HERE!)


Mount St. Joseph’s Antonio Hamiln (right) tries to drive past St. Frances’ Adrian Baldwin during the first half of Friday’s huge MIAA A Conference/Baltimore Catholic League basketball tilt. The fourth-ranked Gaels controlled play in the second half to gain a 74-63 decision over the No. 1 Panthers inside a packed Phelps Gym in east Baltimore.

by Derek Toney

A month that started out like a lamb is ending like a lion for Mount St. Joseph basketball.

The fourth-ranked Gaels defeated No. 1 St. Frances Academy, 74-63, in a MIAA A Conference/Baltimore Catholic League contest in front of a standing-room audience at Phelps Gym in east Baltimore. Senior gurard James Bishop scored 29 points for the Gaels (10-1 overall, 6-0 MIAA A Red Division and 5-0 BCL) and Tyler Brelsford finished with 15.

The Irvington school used precision half court passing to create scoring opportunities and received several contributions to pull away from the defending BCL champ Panthers (12-2, 4-1 MIAA A, 5-1 BCL), who swept their southwest Baltimore rival last season, including the BCL tourney final.

Three weeks ago, Mount St. Joseph suffered its worst loss in recent memory – a 76-36 decision to Gonzaga College (DC) at the Charm City Challenge at DeMatha Catholic. The Gaels looked like a team that graduated four starters from the season before.

When asked about his team’s progression since the Gonzaga debacle, Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey said one word.

“Wow.”

“That was a nightmare. It was embarrassing. We told our guys that’s not acceptable or tolerated in our program,” said Clatchey. “Sometimes in life you have to learn some hard lessons. That was a hard lesson.”

“We had to look in the mirror,” said Bishop. “We knew we had to get tougher to beat teams like St. Frances and Gonzaga.”

Playing with a swagger, Bishop showed Friday why he’s the area top senior. The LSU commit scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and dropped four 3-pointers in the contest.

The 6-foot-2 lefty assassin had a lot of help.

Ausar Crawley, a 5-7 sophomore point guard, scored nine of his 14 points in the final period, and Brelsford’s fast start set the early tone for the Gaels. Senior Will Sykes and 6-10 junior Javonte Brown provided interior rebounding.

Senior reserve Wesley Chairs had five points, but authored the signature moments in the Gaels’ biggest win of the season Friday. He drilled a 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer, giving Mount St. Joseph a 50-45 advantage entering the fourth. Chairs nabbed an offensive rebound and kicked the ball out to Bishop, who dropped his final dagger, pushing the advantage to 55-48.

Little big efforts, like Chairs, is what the Gaels will need this season.

“Gonzaga really showed us we’re not going to beat anyone just off of talent, we got to play hard every game,” said Chairs, who also drew two offensive charges.

The Gaels never trailed after Crawley found an open Chairs under the basket for an easy layup and 28-26 lead in the second quarter, wiping out a 23-18 deficit after one. Behind two Bishop’s daggers and Brelsford’s second half opening trey, Mount St. Joseph stretched its lead to 44-37 midway in the third.

St. Frances closed to 47-45 late in the period and had a chance to tie or take the lead, but turned the ball over. Crawley found an open Chairs in the corner and he buried the 3-pointer, giving Mount St. Joseph momentum heading into the final eight minutes of regulation.

“We knew they (St. Frances) was going to be aggressive so we had to take care of the ball,” said Crawley. “That’s one of the strongest parts of our team with our guards. We have a lot of guards we can rotate and handle the ball and that’s helped us down the stretch.”

Mount St. Joseph opened up a 68-54 advantage with 2:12 left in regulation after baskets from Crawley and Bishop, and some of the capacity audience left for the exit doors. The Gaels hit their final 14 free throws.

Junior guard Adrian Baldwin finished with 26 points for St. Frances, and Jamal West added 14. The Panthers, whose previous loss came at the Charm City Challenge (lost to Paul VI), struggled defensively Friday.

“They were excellent on ball screens and got every 50-50 ball and out-hustled us,” said St. Frances coach Nick Myles. “This was our worst defensive performance of the year and we didn’t rebound. We let them get comfortable.”

Wesley Chairs (left), Tyler Brelsford and Ausar Crawley each were huge for Mount St. Joseph Friday night. Chairs hit a 3-pointer to end the third quarter and drew two charges in the fourth while Brelsford and Crawley combined for 29 points.

The Gaels are in a much better place heading into the holidays. Mount St. Joseph will play at Benedictine Christmas Classic in Richmond, starting Thursday.

“I think our guys learned that you have to compete, play defense and battle everyday,” said Clatchey. “This team has come a long way and is capable of even more. We have a young team and they grew up tonight.”

No. 4 Mount Saint Joseph 74, No. 1 St. Frances Academy 63

Mount St. Joseph – Crawley 14, Bishop 29, Brelsford 15, Sykes 2, Brown 4, Hamlin 2, Edokpayi 3, Chairs 5. Totals: 22 20-25 74.

St. Frances – Baldwin 26, Jones 4, Murphy 7, West 14, Toles 6, Montague 1, Alexander 5. Totals: 22 17-24 63.

Mount St. Joseph 18 20 12 24 – 74

St. Frances 23 12 10 18 – 63