When compared to last season’s 10-win effort, No. 12 Calvert Hall’s basketball team has improved by leaps and bounds under former NBA standout Gary Neal.

With 19 wins under their belt, the Cardinals are methodically moving upward from a low point before Neal returned to take over the program at his alma mater.

On Tuesday in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference quarterfinal, No. 5 Mount Carmel (22-12, 12-5 MIAA, 7-8 Baltimore Catholic League) showed Calvert Hall (19-17, 8-8, 2-13) just how much further it needs to go to become a serious contender for a title.

”When we put it in perspective of where we’ve come from….before I got here, we had a team that won three, four games,” he said. “So we’re moving in the right direction. Not taking anything away from Mount Carmel, but the lack of offense shows that we’re a couple of players away from actually being able to compete consistently against those caliber teams.”

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The Cardinals led briefly, 7-6, in the early going before the Cougars’ defense held the visitors in check while their offense eventually came untracked to produce a thorough 67-37 verdict in Essex.

While Calvert Hall could manage just four points in the second quarter, it only trailed, 24-15 at the intermission. Mount Carmel really didn’t put the hammer down until it poured in 25 points in the third quarter to all but seal the victory.

The Cougars were almost as unrelenting in the final frame, adding 18 more points to put a bow on a 30-point triumph.

Mario Tatum led the charge for Mount Carmel, scoring a game-high 19 points, with 15 of those coming on three-pointers.

As much as Tatum would be justly proud to brag about his shooting, the sophomore point/shooting guard chose to trumpet the Cougars’ ‘D.’

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“We played great defense today,” he said. “It was a great team effort.”

Sophomore guard Mario Tatum drained five three-pointers in Mount Carmel’s 67-37 victory over Calvert Hall on Tuesday in an MIAA A Conference semifinal in Essex. (Nelson Coffin)

Tatum said that he was “a little salty” coming into the game after not being selected for a spot on the All-Baltimore Catholic League team.

Instead of sulking, Tatum went to work by carving up the Cardinals with a three-spree that produced a pair of triples in the second and third periods while adding a fifth in the final frame.

”I played to the best of my ability,” he said. “And we got a great team win today.”

Mount Carmel coach Trevor Quinn lauded his team’s ability to make stops.

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”That was some of the best defense we’ve played all year,” Quinn said. “Everyone was locked in. We have some good individual defenders, but we had really good team defense tonight.”

He added that the Cougars were hoping to contain Calvert Hall’s junior guards Tyrin Bizzelle and All-BCL Second Team selectee Brendan Johnson, with Johnson getting 16 points and Bizzelle five.

Mount Carmel’s ALL-BCL Second Team member Drew Dixon and Honorable Mention choice Omarion Reid scored 10 points each in the triumph.

Mount Carmel will travel to No. 2 St. Frances on Thursday on the heels of such a convincing win.

”Every game is different,” Quinn said. “You win by 30, you could be in a game that comes down to the last possession in the next one.”

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CHC 11 4 11 11 — 37

OLMC 14 10 25 18 — 67

CHC-Brendan Johnson 16, Jonah Biggers 12, Tyrin Bizzelle 5, Dominic Crawford 2, Troy Tinch 2. Totals: 16 2-2 37.

OLMC-Mario Tatum 19, Drew Dixon 10, Omarion Reid 10, Drazen Sinigoj 9, Mitchell Kalu 8, Makhi Cole 4, Allen Mordi 4, Rodney Scott 2, Marquis Blackshear 2. Totals: 25 9-16 67.

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