Mount St. Joseph stuns No. 2 St. Frances, gives Clatchey another milestone; Edokpayi scores 22 (VIDEO HERE!)
by Joe DiBlasi
Basketball is often defined by sports experts as a game of transition and momentum.
Friday night in Irvington, fourth-ranked Mount Saint Joseph topped No. 2 St. Frances Academy, 62-53, in MIAA A Conference/Baltimore Catholic League action, handing the Panthers their first loss in conference play this season. In the process the Gaels delivered career win number 700 to coach Pat Clatchey.
The Gaels (17-3 overall, 9-2 MIAA A, 7-0 BCL) did it by controlling tempo, scoring 10 unanswered points to start the third quarter, overcoming a four-point halftime deficit (26-22). They stopped the Panthers’ transition late in the game, sealing their biggest victory of the season before a noisy, energetic home crowd inside The Smith Center.
“They thrive on momentum, and we tried to keep them out of transition,” said Clatchey, who is in his 28th season in Irvington. “There are two things you do with that; you score, and you get back, and they did not get a lot of transition buckets.
Every time we play them it’s a high level game. They have a really good team and they’re very talented.”
Clatchey got great play from his senior duo of Jason Edokpayi and Tyler Brelsford, who combined for 41 points. Edokpayi, a Fairfield University recruit had 22, and Brelsford threw in 19.
Brelsford, who will play for George Washington next season, made a remarkable four-point play to spur the Gaels’ 10-0 third quarter run. Edokpayi was dominant in the paint, scoring 15 points inn the second half, including a thunder-dunk in the third, that ignited the Gaels’ huge student section.
“Jason was big-time, and seniors win games,” said St. Frances coach Nick Myles.
“Everyone was executing on all cylinders,” said Edokpayi, 6-foot-6. “We took care of business. We got guys open, and we were making shots. We had a good week of practice and today we brought it all out. They were one run away from taking over the game, and we couldn’t let that happen, and we had to get that stop.”
The Gaels had a 55-49 lead late in the fourth quarter, which the Panthers (22-3, 9-1 MIAA A, 5-1 BCL) cut it to two, 55-53, with 1 minute, 52 seconds left in regulation. However, the Mount stopped the St. Frances offense cold, and scored the final seven to gain sole possession of first in the BCL.
Clatchey said the Gaels’ effort started with Edokpayi.
“Jason was tremendous. His progress has been remarkable. He rebounds, he protects the rim, he makes shots, and he’s a Player of the Year candidate in the league right now,” said Clatchey.
“We had to come out and focus, and be mentally prepared, and stay together, and I think we did that tonight, and that’s how we came away with the win,” said Brelsford, a 6-3 guard. “Coach said he wanted us to limit them to one shot on the offensive glass, and push the ball, and not have turnovers. I think we’re a special team, and if we keep playing like this we will be competing for a championship at the end of the year.”
It was Mount St. Joseph’s third straight regular season win over the Panthers, who rebounded to sweep the MIAA A and BCL titles last season. The East Baltimore school, ranked No. 10 nationally by ESPN, got another monster performance from senior forward Jamal West, who scored a game-high 26 points.
“Jamal West was unbelievable,” said Clatchey. “His will to win, he kept them in the game and he put them on his back.”
“Jamal is a warrior and he did all he could do,” said Myles.
It wasn’t enough against an inspired Gael squad Friday.
“They had a good game plan and I thought they executed well,” said Myles. “They made the most buzzer-beaters with the shot clock going off that I’ve ever saw in my life. They made four or five buzzer-beaters and two of them were ‘and-ones.’ It’s one game, we’ve got a long season, and we’ll get after it tomorrow.”
West, a South Alabama recruit, summed up the Panthers’ first loss in the area this season succinctly.
“We stopped defending, we stopped playing as a team and we stopped doing what we do best, which is defend,” said West. “Defense means offense.”
NO. 4 MOUNT ST. JOSEPH 62, NO. 2 ST. FRANCES ACADEMY 53
ST. FRANCES – Baldwin 9, Ireland 15, West 26, Curtis 3. Totals 19 11-18 53.
MOUNT ST. JOSEPH – Crawley 6, Brelsford 19, Stines 2, Edokpayi 22, Sykes 2, Carr 5, Hanlon 5, Sapienza 1. Totals 20 17-23 62.
SFA 14 12 13 14 — 53
MSJ 9 13 23 17 — 62