John Carroll School’s boys’ basketball team made history this season, winning the Baltimore Catholic League championship in its inaugural campaign. Now, the Patriots will attempt BCL immortality.
Thursday at Frostburg State University, John Carroll will compete at the 51st Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament. It’s arguably the Super Bowl on the mid-Atlantic private boys’ basketball scene, bringing together teams from Baltimore, the District, New Jersey and Virginia.
The Patriots (32-2), who gained their first-ever No. 1 ranking in the latest area polls, will play another ACIT newcomer St. Benedict’s Prep from New Jersey in the opening round Thursday. The Newark school was recently a Top 10 national program under Dan Hurley, who left after last season to coach the men’s program at Wagner University.
Roshown McLeod, a former Duke University star, has taken the coaching reigns. Despite a 10-10 record, the Gray Bees took perennial national powerhouse Montrose Christian (ranked No. 3 in latest USA Today’s Super 25) down the wire before falling, 60-53, a couple of weeks ago. In February, St. Benedict’s visited Baltimore and posted a 64-54 victory over No. 4 St. Frances Academy.
The decision came 24 hours after John Carroll posted an 88-74 victory against the Panthers, the second of four victories this season the Patriots enjoyed over St. Frances. John Carroll defeated the east Baltimore school in the MIAA A and BCL Tourney finals.
The Patriots, led by co-BCL player of the year Malcolm McMillan and senior backcourt mate Ronald Scott, could get a fifth match with St. Frances Saturday in either the championship or consolation round. Reaching the title game for either team will be a daunting task.
If John Carroll gets past St. Benedict’s, it will have Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champ and legendary national powerhouse DeMatha Catholic (26-7; ranked No. 4 in D.C. area) in the semifinal round Friday. The Hyattsville school, led by Georgetown recruit Mikael Hopkins, has won a record 18 ACIT titles in 28 final appearances.
St. Frances (18-7) opens Thursday against three-time defending ACIT champions Gonzaga (D.C.). The Eagles (24-7; No. 5 in D.C. area) are led by 6-8 center Oliver Ellison, who’s verbally committed to Howard, and All-WCAC first-team performers Nate Britt and Kris Jenkins.
Loyola University-bound guard R.J. Williams, co-player of the year in BCL with McMillan, and Rutgers signee Greg Lewis will lead the Panthers. The rest of the 2011 ACIT field includes host Bishop Walsh, Bishop McNamara and Benedictine from Richmond.
No BCL team has won the Alhambra crown since 1996 when St. Frances, led by Mark Karcher, defeated Gonzaga (D.C.), ending a 14-year BCL drought. Two years ago, St. Frances, coached by Karcher, lost in the finals to Gonzaga.
Only three teams, Towson Catholic (1962), Calvert Hall (1982) and St. Frances (1996) have brought the prestigious ACIT championship trophy back to Baltimore.
51st Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament
When: Thursday, March 17-Saturday March 19
Where: Bobcat Arena, Frostburg State University
DeMatha Catholic vs. Bishop Walsh, 4 p.m.
Bishop McNamara vs. Benedictine (VA), 5:45 p.m.
St. Benedict’s Prep (N.J.) vs. John Carroll School, 7:30 p.m.
Gonzaga (D.C.) vs. St. Frances Academy, 9:15 p.m.
DeMatha/Bishop Walsh loser vs. St. Benedict’s/John Carroll loser, 4 p.m.
McNamara/Benedictine loser vs. Gonzaga/St. Frances loser, 5:45 p.m.
DeMatha/Bishop Walsh winner vs. St. Benedict’s/John Carroll winner, 7:30 p.m.
McNamara/Benedictine winner vs. Gonzaga/St. Frances winner, 9:15 p.m.
7th place, 3 p.m.
5th place, 4:45 p.m.
3rd place, 6:30 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 8:15 p.m.