Mount Carmel High boys’ basketball spent most of Wednesday’s contest against McDonogh School playing catchup. And once the Cougars got even, Terry Nolan did the rest.

No. 6 Mount Carmel rallied for a 56-53 victory over the 12th-ranked Eagles in a MIAA A Conference contest inside Lamborn Memorial Field House in Owings Mills. Junior forward Jordan Jones led the Cougars (21-7 overall) with 16 points, and Nolan finished with 15. 

The Old Eastern Avenue school rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to gain sole possession first in the Red Division (10-4). The top team in each division (Black is other) will have home-court in the upcoming postseason tournament (top four teams in each division qualify).

Two years ago, Mount Carmel made a stunning second half run to the MIAA A final. Nolan, who will play for University of Tennessee-Chattanooga next season, was a sophomore. 

The 6-foot-3 guard is now the undeniable leader for the Cougars. A faciliator through the first three periods Wednesday, Nolan scored 12 points in the fourth quarter.

“My team needed me big, needed me to step up and be a leader, and that’s what I did,” said Nolan. “… We knew we were going to make out run, we just didn’t know when. We just had to stay with it and be consistent and trust our coaches because we knew it would come.”

Nolan presented Mount Carmel with its first lead, 44-42, off a drive with 5 minutes, 16 seconds left in regulation. McDonogh answered with back-to-back 3-pointers from Noah Locke to regain the lead. 

Nolan came back with a 3-point play and a breakway dunk, putting the Cougars ahead for good, 49-48, with 3:06 remaining. He added an assist to Jones and converted five free throws in the final 35 seconds.

The third quarter belonged to Jones, who helped Mount Carmel close a 31-21 deficit to just 40-38. The 6-foot-5 forward scored eight points in the frame, mainly off passes from Nolan for uncontested layups.

A transfer from Aberdeen, Jones’ emergence has been critical in the Cougars’ latest second half run.

“Since early summer, me and Terry been working together and the chemistry is getting better,” said Jones, whose sisters Bri and Stephanie Jones play for the University of Maryland after being All-Met performers at Aberdeen and brother Jarred (John Carroll School) stars for Loyola University. 

The Cougars found themselves in an early 11-2 hole, but drew to within 24-20 late in the second quarter. McDonogh got a steal and basket from Marquis Thornes and a 3-pointer from Jaedon Willis to claim a 31-20 cushion.

“I reminded the guys with the shot clock it’s a long game, a lot of possessions,” said Mount Carmel coach Hakim Hibbert. “I just told them to guard, rebound and give me everything they have.”

Mehki Howard’s four-point play pulled even Mount Carmel at 42 with 6:37 left in regulation. Nolan gave the Cougars the lead for good with his basket as the explosive guard scored 12 of his team’s last 14 points.

“Terry has been a phenomenal leader for us the whole year, and he’s really been stepping up in key situations — leading the guys on and off the court,” Hibbert said. “We’re glad to have Terry Nolan this season.”

Junior guard Noah Locke finished with a game-high 19 points for McDonogh (17-9, 10-5 MIAA A), and Willis finished with 18. Willis’ final heave at the buzzer narrowly missed as the Eagles fell for the fourth time in their last five decisions (three losses by four points or less).

McDonogh coach TJ Jordan said defensive lapses were costly. Senior point guard Damian Chong Qui, who Jordan said is battling through illness, didn’t score Wednesday.

“On ball screens, nobody is supposed to be getting through, but instead of worrying about team defense, guys were worried about their man,” said McDonogh coach TJ Jordan. “Give Jordan Jones credit, he found the spots and finished strong at the basket.”

The Eagles have one league final match at St. Frances Academy Wednesday. McDonogh will finish no worse than second in the Red division. 

Mount Carmel, which was eliminated from playoff contention by McDonogh in the regular season finale last season, claims the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Eagles with Wednesday’s win. The Cougars have Loyola Blakefield and Archbishop Spalding at home to finish the regular season league slate. 

“We haven’t  been in first place since my sophomore year when we won 19 games in a row,” said Nolan, whose team is 12-2 since the start of the new year. “This is huge.”

No. 6 Mount Carmel 56, No. 12 McDonogh School 53

Mount Carmel – Evans 6, Felton 1, Howard 7, Jones 16, Miller 5, Nolan 15, Thomas 6. Totals 19 12-20 56.

McDonogh – Hudson 2, Little 2, Locke 19, Pickett 2, Thomas 10, Willis 18. Totals 19 8-10 53.

Mount Carmel 9 12 17 18 – 56

McDonogh 13 18 9 13 – 53