With their trophy case already stocked with hardware from their titles in the MIAA A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League, third-ranked Mount St. Joseph will take to the basketball floor one final time this season, Saturday night at Frostburg State University’s Bobcat Arena, as they Gaels tangle with WCAC champion Gonzaga D.C. in the title game of the 57th annual Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament.
St. Joe (37-3) becomes only the 15th BCL team to reach the Alhambra championship game and only three teams – Towson Catholic (1962), Calvert Hall (1982) and St. Frances (1996) – have won the title. St. Joe last appeared in the ACIT final in 2006.
To reach the final, St. Joe beat MIAA/BCL rival Mount Carmel, 63-59, Friday night in the semifinals. It was St. Joe’s fifth win over the Cougars this year, including victories in the MIAA A Conference and BCL title games.
Mount Carmel (28-11), which has played the Gaels tough in their recent meetings, led most of the first quarter, but St. Joe surged in the second quarter, behind back-to-back threes from James Bishop and Jaden Robinson, and raced past the Cougars to lead 36-26 at the half.
The lead grew to 14-points in the third quarter before Mount Carmel began to rally. The Cougars nearly got all the way back, staging an 11-2 run midway through the fourth quarter, to pull within one.
The Gaels managed to hold onto the lead by hitting 3-of-4 free throws in the final minute and then prevailed when the Cougars missed on a potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer.
Junior Jalen Smith had another big night, scoring a game-high 21 points for the Gaels, while Bishop and Robinson netted 11 each. In addition, Darryl Morsell and Kendall McMillan netted 10 points each.
Mount Carmel senior Terry Nolan, Jr. paced the Cougars with 16 points and Brandon Watson reached double figures with 11 points.
Gonzaga spoiled the possibility of an all BCL final when it topped St. Maria Goretti, 77-74, in the other semifinal.
Goretti (28-8), which knocked off defending champion DeMatha in the quarterfinals, trailed 60-44 entering the final quarter, but outscored the Eagles 30-17 in the final stanza to come up just short.
Senior Jake Kuhn and Elijah Clarance combined for 47 points to lead the Gales. Kuhn, who netted a team-high 25 points hit five three-pointers and Clarance hit three from beyond the arc, RJ Blakney added 16 points and five rebounds, while Amir Harris had six points and six assists.
Goretti and Mount Carmel will play at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday in the third-place consolation, followed at 8:15 p.m. by St. Joe and Gonzaga in the championship game.