Friars top St. John’s Catholic for first title since 2001; Johnson scores 19 (VIDEO HERE!)


by Dave Larkin

Led by a group of seasoned veterans, the Archbishop Curley Friars from East Baltimore cashed in on four years of growth, sweat and tears, as they vanquished St. John’s Catholic Prep, 64-54, Sunday afternoon at Harford Community College in the MIAA B Conference basketball final.

Senior Caleb Johnson led the way with 19 points, including several fearless drives to the hoop, relentless defense, and a soft jumper that kept finding its mark. He also netted eight fourth quarter points to help turn back a second half comeback attempt by St. John’s.

Fellow senior Josh Knapp also displayed his sharpshooting skills, hitting three crucial 3’s on his way to a 13-point contribution, while junior Dinari Boykin assisted his senior teammates in going out on top by contributing 16 points for the Friars. Boykin contributed several key rebounds and put-backs, to go with two fourth quarter dunks, which brought the Curley faithful to their feet, sensing an end to a 19-year championship drought.

Curley (23-6 overall) claimed a three-point lead after the opening quarter and began to stretch things out in the second quarter. A trey by Knapp, with 5 minutes, 30 seconds to play in second quarter, gave the Friars a 23-15 advantage.

Johnson scored back-to-back baskets, a few minutes later, to take the Curley lead to 10, at 27-17, and Dalyn Brandon converted two consecutive steals into a pair of break-away slam dunks as Curley stretched its lead out to 33-19 and went to the half with a 12-point bulge.

St John’s (19-12) used some excellent defensive stops, fueled by an effective zone defense, and plenty of moxie to pull within eight points on several times in the second half, but poor foul shooting prevented the Vikings from drawing even closer.

Knapp reflected on the Friars’ senior leadership and commitment.

“We lost in the semifinals last year,” said the talented 6-foot-2 lefty who will be plying his trade in football next year when he suits up as free safety for the Virginia Military Institute Keydets. “We knew what we had to do. Having seven seniors on the team – it’s a lot of experience and leadership. We bring a lot of energy to every game. We had one goal and we did it.”

Archbishop Curley coach Darnell Hopkins was effusive in his praise for his beloved seniors.

“I love them to death,” said Hopkins. “They played their heart out. Thank God I have them. I have seven seniors. It’s amazing, I’ve watched those guys for four years – coming up, just mature and get into a rhythm as a team. We won this as a team today.”

St. John’s Catholic Prep was led by senior Winston Moore, Jr. (17 points) and sophomore Masai Troutman (11 points).

Vikings coach Stu Wilson was asked about his team’s struggle at the line.

“Oh man, I wish I could tell you. We were great in big arenas all year long. I was confident coming in. Big game jitters? You’re talking about high school kids – that’s the kind of thing that happens sometimes.

“We’ve talked about it all year long. We’ve talked about rewarding ourselves when we get a defensive stop – reward yourself with a great offensive possession. They started to come in waves, and if we could have capitalized a little more, that would have been a good swing for the game.”

Curley, which last won the B Conference title at the end of the 2000-2001 season, also enjoyed a reward for work that dated back to some grueling conditioning efforts last summer.

“In the Summer, I killed them,” said Hopkins. “We did the track, the hills, we flipped tires. They were honestly mad at me, but I told them, ‘This is the outcome. Y’all mad at me right now, but I’m going to enjoy y’all picking up that trophy.’ And it happened.”


at Harford Community College


SJ 11 12 15 16 — 54
AC 16 19 12 17 — 64

ST. JOHN’S CATHOLIC PREP: Winston Moore Jr. 17, Masai Troutman 11, Matt Contreras 9, Brandon Pilgrim 6, Tyriel Collins 4, Cederick Afnou 3, Andre Sheppard 2.

ARCHBISHOP CURLEY: Caleb Johnson 19, Dinari Boykin 16, Josh Knapp 13, Niton Carroll 8, Dalyn Brandon 4, Sam Walter 2.