Above: Adrian Baldwin (left) netted 15 points and Elijah Epps scored a team-high 26 including a 10-for-10 performance from the free throw line.
No. 3 Panthers stay unbeaten in the MIAA and BCL
by Joe DiBlasi
Basketball games between rivals St. Frances and Mount St. Joseph have become such a hot ticket in recent years that advanced sales tickets are usually sold out days ahead of tip-off. Such was the case again on Friday night as an overflow capacity crowd packed the Smith Center in Irvington to see the old foes square off in another MIAA A Conference/Baltimore Catholic League tilt.
On the floor, a trio of Panthers combined for 64 points to help third-ranked St. Frances Academy remain unbeaten in the MIAA A Conference and the Baltimore Catholic League basketball standings with a hard-earned 81-75 victory over No. 5 St. Joe. St. Frances (13-1, 6-0, 7-0) led by Elijah Epps, sophomore Jordan Toles, and Adrian Baldwin.
St. Frances was a blistering 24-of-26 from the free throw line with 15 of their 21 fourth-quarter points coming from the charity stripe. Epps was 8-for-8 from the line in the final two minutes of the game to help seal the win for Coach Nick Myles.
“The guys trusted in the process of playing together,” said Myles. “Elijah Epps has been so big for us all year. We had great balance; these young guys are going to be great. We got a total team effort.”
Jordan Toles, a star this past fall on the MIAA A champion Panther football team, had to leave the game late in the final quarter to catch a plane to join the football team in Arizona, where they will play a national televised game against Bingham (UT) on Saturday evening, after scoring 23 points for the Panthers.
Myles said, “He ran out of here because he has to get to that football game. He’s a great athlete and a great kid.”
On the big effort from St. Joe stars Jalen Smith and James Bishop, Myles said “Sticks” (Smith) is an incredible player and Bishop is an incredible player.
The dynamic duo combined for 54 points, but it just wasn’t enough for Coach Pat Clatchley’s defending conference camps, which suffered their first loss in the MIAA A conference this season.
“They only missed two free throws for the whole game, said the veteran St. Joe coach.” They are very talented and they have a lot of offensive weapons”.”
Clatchey said that the key to the Panther win was a lack of defensive rebounding by his Gaels. “We shouldn’t have fouled as much. We need to find another guy that can score.”
On the performance of Epps, Clatchey said, “He has been through the wars. He is a grizzled veteran; he’s a good player. He’s very efficient and he’s very productive.”
Bishop had 28 for the Mount to lead all scorers. The sharp-shooting senior said, “At the end of the game they made more plays than we did. Overall we played hard and had a good game.”
Bishop stepped up big in the third quarter when he nailed back-to-back threes with 4:28 to go to give the Mount a 46-44 lead.
The Gaels’ lead was short-lived as Epps immediately answered on the other end with a three of his own to put his team ahead, 47-46, to stunt the Gaels comeback. The Panthers extended their lead to 60-56 at the end of third and they held on the rest of the way to take the victory.
“IIt’s a big rivalry game,” said Epps. “I just wanted to win and I told my teammates to keep fighting to the end and never give up.”
Epps led the Panthers with 26 points, Toles had 23 and Baldwin added 15.
SF 19 16 25 21 — 81
ST. FRANCES: Jones 5, Baldwin 15, Epps 26, Ferguson 2, Diop 6, Toles 23, Moore 2, Montague 2.