In the minutes following Sunday’s Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championship game, Mount St. Joseph’s Austin Abrams, Sean Clark, Amani Hansberry and Ace Valentine hugged each other and posed for pictures.

It was the perfect ending of another wildly successful era for Mount St. Joseph basketball seniors as the No. 2 Gaels defeated St. Maria Goretti, 59-50, in the 52nd BCL Tournament title match at Goucher College. Hansberry and junior forward Tyonne Farrell each scored 17 points and Valentine added 13 points and six assists for Mount St. Joseph (38-4 overall).

The Southwest Baltimore school led wire-to-wire to retain ownership of the Brother D. John Smith Trophy, awarded to the tourney champion. It’s the ninth title overall for Mount St. Joseph, which won its first BCL Tournament crown in 2003.

It’s the second straight BCL title for Abrams, Clark, Hansberry and Valentine. A week after losing in overtime in the MIAA A Conference final at UMBC, the senior quartet found redemption Sunday in Towson on Goucher’s hardwood.

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“It was emotional, the last time playing with my guys,” Hansberry said. “Just try to come out here, leave my legacy and get a win. Everybody on the team stepped up.”

Hansberry capped his short but plentiful Mount St. Joseph career with a second straight BCL Tournament Most Valuable Player award, the first back-to-back effort since Adrian “Ace” Baldwin won three in a row for St. Frances (2018-2020). The University of Illinois recruit, who was selected the Catholic League’s top player for the 2022-23 regular season is the first to claim the player of the year and tournament MVP honors in the same season since former Gaels star Phil Booth in 2014.

Hansberry, who transferred to Mount St. Joseph from St. John’s (D.C.) following the 2020-21 school year, had 21 rebounds Sunday.

“Transfer from heaven,” said Gaels coach Pat Clatchey. “The impact on both ends of the floor. High character. About winning…tremendous impact in a variety of ways.”

“He’s been amazing,” said Valentine. “We played together in middle school and was hoping he would come…he’s a difference maker.”

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Valentine, an UMBC recruit and the son of former Division I guards Craig (Towson) and Kacy (nee Williams; Georgetown) masterfully directed the Gaels’ offense. Abrams was the proverbial glue guy with his steady scoring and defense. Depending on the situation, Clark was the spark, offensively or defensively, off the bench.

Abrams, Clark and Valentine played on the Gaels’ championship junior varsity as freshman.

“We’ve grown together,” said Clark, who helped slowed Goretti guard Jahsan Johnson Sunday (11 points after scoring 29 in Saturday’s semifinals). “We were ready to put it all out there one more time.”

The Gaels were hoping to get a BCL final rematch with St. Frances, which spoiled their MIAA A title repeat bid. Goretti (27-7), which handed them their only BCL loss in Hagerstown in January and took them to the wire in Southwest Baltimore before turning the ball over on the final play three weeks ago, more than suffice.

Mount St. Joseph was ready, establishing a 17-6 lead after the opening eight minutes. It was 25-8 midway in the second quarter after Abrams converted a transition layup.

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The Gaels led, 30-19, at half.

“I felt good. We reminded the guys that we were up 10 against St, Frances and they scored seven straight coming out,” said Clatchey. “We couldn’t have that.”

The Gaels kept the pressure, unlike last week’s MIAA A final, but Goretti fought back. Goretti pulled to 36-28 with 3 minutes, 50 seconds remaining in the third before a 9-2 close, featuring a near full court run to the basket from Farrell, put Mount St. Joseph in control, 45-30.

Goretti, which beat St. Frances in the late semifinal Saturday, was still alive at 56-50 with 39.8 seconds left in regulation. After a free throw by Farrell, Hansberry blocked Johnson’s shot and was fouled with 22.3 seconds remaining.

Hansberry and Clark each converted a free throw, putting the title away for Mount St. Joseph. An erratic 13-of-28 showing from the free throw line was the only blemish Sunday.

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Valentine and Ferrell joined Hansberry on the all-tournament team. Carlton Carrington (St. Frances), Johnson and Omarion Reid from Mount Carmel were also selected.

The 38 wins by Mount St. Joseph, including a victory over national powerhouse Montverde Academy at the Iolani Classic in Hawaii, tied an area and state season-single record they established in 2006. The Gaels played in tournaments in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Prince George’s County and the Eastern Shore.

With an invitation to the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament on the table, Clatchey decided several weeks ago the BCL Tournament would be Mount St. Joseph’s swan song for the season.

“You can only go to the well so many times. This is our 42nd game,” said Clatchey, who’s guided his alma-mater to all nine BCL Tournament titles (most by coach in BCL history). “I love the Alhambra Tournament, but enough is enough…Amani, Ace and Ty rarely came out of the game.”

And there was Valentine, taking the final dribbles of his high school career as the final seconds ticked away. The Gaels went 80-14 with Valentine, Clark and Abrams the past three seasons.

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“The only way I wanted to go out on is a championship — that was the goal I just wanted to go out with a win,” said Valentine. “I didn’t want to go out sad and stuff like that, so I’m glad we won.”

BALTIMORE CATHOLIC LEAGUE TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP

at Goucher College

NO. 2 MOUNT ST. JOSEPH 59, ST. MARIA GORETTI 50

Goretti - Allen 10, Embeya 10, Johnson 11, Cook 9, Cheung 8, Wright 2. Totals: 15 14-20 50.

Mount St. Joseph - Valentine 13, Abrams 6, Farrell 17, Hansberry 17, Clark 3, Truitt 3. Totals: 23 13-28 59.

Goretti 6 13 21 10 - 50

Mount St. Joseph 17 13 15 14 - 59

Mount St. Joseph players jump off the bench in excitement after a play against St. Maria Goretti in the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championship at Goucher College, in Baltimore, Sunday, March 5, 2023 (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)
St. Maria Goretti Caleb Embeya (23) pops up for a shot against Mount St. Joseph players in the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championship at Goucher College, in Baltimore, Sunday, March 5, 2023 (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)
Mount St. Joseph Amani Hansberry (35) dunks the ball against St. Maria Goretti Caleb Embeya (23) in the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championship at Goucher College, in Baltimore, Sunday, March 5, 2023 (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)
St. Maria Goretti Jahsan Johnson (3) battles for a ball against Mount St. Joseph Amani Hansberry (35) in the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championship at Goucher College, in Baltimore, Sunday, March 5, 2023 (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)
Mount St. Joseph Tyonne Farrell (23) pops up for a shot against St. Maria Goretti Najeh Allen (12) in the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championship at Goucher College, in Baltimore, Sunday, March 5, 2023 (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)
Mount St. Joseph Sean Clark (10) and Mount St. Joseph DJ Wingfield (5) attempt to block a shot from St. Maria Goretti Jahsan Johnson (3) in the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championship at Goucher College, in Baltimore, Sunday, March 5, 2023
Mount St. Joseph Sean Clark (10) and Mount St. Joseph DJ Wingfield (5) attempt to block a shot from St. Maria Goretti Jahsan Johnson (3) in the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championship at Goucher College, in Baltimore, Sunday, March 5, 2023 (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)
Mount St. Joseph Amani Hansberry (35) goes up for a free throw against St. Maria Goretti in the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championship at Goucher College, in Baltimore, Sunday, March 5, 2023 (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)
Mount St. Joseph Joaquin Agyemann (32) hugs his teammate after beating St. Maria Goretti in the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championship at Goucher College, in Baltimore, Sunday, March 5, 2023.
Mount St. Joseph Joaquin Agyemann (32) hugs his teammate after beating St. Maria Goretti in the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championship at Goucher College, in Baltimore, Sunday, March 5, 2023. (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)
Mount St. Joseph players celebrate after beating St. Maria Goretti in the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championship at Goucher College, in Baltimore, Sunday, March 5, 2023 (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

Derek Toney is content editor of Varsity Sports Network, a high school sports news network that became part of The Baltimore Banner in August 2022. 

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