There won’t be a championship final chapter to this season’s Mount St. Joseph and St. Frances boys’ basketball rivalry. The area’s top two squads had different results at the 52nd Baltimore Catholic League Tournament semifinals Saturday.
The No. 2 and defending champ Gaels survived a scare from sixth-ranked Mount Carmel to advance to Sunday’s championship finale with a 69-59 semifinal victory at Goucher College. Mount St. Joseph will play St. Maria Goretti for the crown.
Goretti eliminated top-ranked St. Frances, 68-62, in the late semifinal, setting a matchup of the tourney’s top two seeds, Sunday at 3 p.m. at Goucher.
Mount St. Joseph (37-4 overall), the top seed, trailed midway through the third against fourth-seeded Mount Carmel, but buckled down to move into position for its ninth BCL Tournament championship.
“This time of year, it is about finding a way to win,” said Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey, whose team lost to St. Frances in the MIAA A Conference final last weekend at UMBC. “I don’t think we played great. I thought our defense the last six minutes got better. We got a little lead and got a chance to run. We executed a little bit better. We got a little cushion and did what we needed to do down the stretch.”
The Gaels saw a 35-25 lead early in the third quarter dissipate as Mount Carmel (20-16) made a charge behind junior guard Andrew Dixon and senior center Omarion Reid.
Dixon scored six points and Reid had a pair of emphatic dunks, including one that tied the game at 41, as the Cougars went of a 16-6 run in the third quarter. Reid followed his dunk by putting home a rebound and hit the ensuing free three to give the Cougars a 3-point lead.
Mount St. Joseph got the lead back by relying on big man Amani Hansberry. The senior forward, headed to the University of Illinois, scored inside on each of the next two possessions to give the Southwest Baltimiore school the lead back.
The Gaels came out strong in the fourth quarter behind junior guard Tyonne Farrell and Sean Clark. The duo helped force three turnovers and Clark, a senior reserve, scored 4 points in an 8-0 run as Mount St. Joseph pushed out to a 53-44 lead early in the final quarter.
Mount Carmel closed to within 53-49, but Farrell had five points and a pair of steals down the stretch to help seal the win - Mount St. Joseph’s third this season over the Cougars.
“We knew what we had to do,” Gaels senior guard Ace Valentine said. “They are a tough team, props to them. They had a run, but basketball is a game of runs so we knew we were going to go on a run too. We just had to keep playing.”
Valentine and Hansberry, the BCL Player of the Year for the regular season, each finished with 17 points. Reid shined in his final game for the Cougars with 20 points and 4 rebounds.
The future looks bright for the Essex school as Dixon and sophomore Mario Tatum played a big part of the team’s success this season. Dixon, a junior, who had 14 points and was a second-team All-BCL selection.
Tatum led the team in points in Friday’s quarterfinal win over John Carroll. Sophomore guard Rodney Scott was a key contributor this season.
“We lost a couple of kids last year,” Mount Carmel coach Trevor Quinn said. “Omar Reid stepped up. Dixon, Mario Tatum and our other sophomore really filled the void. They competed every night. We were right there all year. As they get older, they will be even better.”
The 11th time was the charm for Goretti (27-6), which held off a furious charge from St. Frances late to secure its title game spot. The Hagerstown school was 0-10 in BCL tourney matchups with the Panthers.
It’s 1-10, thanks to Jahsan Johnson. The senior guard poured in 29 points as Goretti, the No. 2 seed, advanced to its first BCL Tournament final since 2020.
“All year it has been toughness,” Johnson said. “Every team we have been through, we had to play tough. No matter what team it was, our toughness gave us that mentality that we can do anything. Nobody believed in us this year. Our heart is big – so we went and attacked everybody and everything.”
Leading 29-24 at halftime, Goretti outscored St. Frances, 24-12, in the third behind Johnson, who knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers, for a 53-36 advantage. Johnson and fellow senior Najeh Allen combined for all but one point in the frame.
“It’s my team - not just me,” Johnson said. “They help me create the space so me setting up my team and allowing them to score, they allow me to get open because [the defense] sags off me.”
Down 19 early in the fourth, St. Frances (29-11) mounted a rally. The MIAA A Conference champs went on a 14-2 run to close to 62-56 with a little over a minute left in regulation.
Goretti stayed composed as senior Tristan Cook converted four free throws in the final minute. Dionte Alexander, the team’s leading scorer, recently went down for the season with an injury, and Johnson, a 5-foot-9 sparkplug, has picked up his game.
“Jah stepped up for us,” said Goretti coach Sidney McCray, a former St. Paul’s standout who was the BCL Coach of the Year this season. “He is really a starter for us, but he accepted his role of coming off the bench. He was ready for it when DA got hurt.”
Senior guard Carlton Carrington finished with a game-high 34 points for St. Frances, including 17 in the final frame, and Maryland-bound Jahnathan Lamothe added 10.
It wasn’t enough as the Panthers’ bid for a sixth straight BCL Tournament final and record 11th crown fell short. Last weekend, St. Frances won its first MIAA A title since 2019 with an overtime victory over Mount St. Joseph after being swept by their Baltimore City private school rivals during the regular season.
“The fortitude that my guys showed at the end and the resilience that they showed when things weren’t going our way was remarkable,” said Panthers coach Nick Myles. “We played hard and gave it all we got. It just wasn’t the result we wanted. We will regroup. We will add a couple of new pieces. We have a tradition of excellence, and we look forward to continuing that next season.”
BALTIMORE CATHOLIC LEAGUE TOURNAMENT SEMIFINALS
at Goucher College
NO. 1 MOUNT ST. JOSEPH 69, NO. 6 MOUNT CARMEL 59
Mount Carmel - Omarion Reid 20, Andrew Dixon 14, Drazen Sinigoj 8, Mitchell Kalu 7, Allen Mordi 5, Mario Tatum 3, Rodney Scott 2. Totals: 24 6-13 59.
Mount St. Joseph - Ace Valentine 17, Amani Hansberry 17, Tyrone Farrell 14, Austin Abrams 8, Sean Clark 7, Ryan Truitt 4, Joe Green 2. Totals: 28 10-13 69.
Mount Carmel 10 15 19 15 - 59
Mount St. Joseph 13 17 15 24 - 69
ST. MARIA GORETTI 68, NO. 1 ST. FRANCES 62
St. Frances 18 6 12 26 - 62
Goretti 16 13 24 15 – 68St. Frances: Carlton Carrington Jr. 34, Jahnathan Lamothe 10, Joede Mebane 7, Tyler Jackson 5, Benjamin Brown 4, Edrees Farooq 2. Totals: 22 13-17 62.
Goretti: Jahsan Johnson 29, Najeh Allen 18, Caleb Embeya 13, Tristan Cook 4, Justin Cheung 4. Totals: 26 9-15 68.