No. 1 St. Frances rolls to Gonzaga Classic crown; Baldwin and Alexander combine for 37
by Derek Toney
After winning the Gonzaga (DC) Classic tourney crown Sunday evening, St. Frances coach Nick Myles relished the accomplishment, albeit briefly.
“It’s a long season…definitely happy to win this prestigious tournament,” said Myles. “The championship we really want comes February and March.”
The No. 1 Panthers put an impressive feather in their cap, winning the Gonzaga crown with a 77-54 pounding of Pennsylvania’s Abington at Gonzaga’s Carmody Center. Junior guard Adrian Baldwin finished with 19 points and 10 steals for the Panthers (8-1 overall), and Carlos Alexander added 18.
The defending Baltimore Catholic League champs swallowed the suburban Philadelphia school with a dogged defensive effort to become the second Baltimore team to win one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s premier tourneys. Mount St. Joseph claimed the Gonzaga title in 2005 (beat St. Frances in final) and 2013.
After an uneven showing last weekend at the Charm City Challenge (lost to northern Virginia’s Paul VI) at DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, St. Frances returned the District region with a vengeance, beating perennial Prince George’s County private stronghold Riverdale Baptist and Whitney Young, the No. 1 team in Chicago by the Chicago Sun-Times.
“It’s been about discipline and effort,” said Baldwin.
Baldwin, a 6-foot point guard, was named to the Gonzaga Classic All-Tournament team with teammate Jordan Toles and Jamal West. Abington senior Eric Dixon was selected tourney MVP.
Dixon, who will play for Villanova University next season, finished with 32 points, but it wasn’t easy. St. Frances doubled-team the burly 6-foot-6 post and constantly hounded Abington’s ballhandlers Sunday.
“We thought pressuring him, speed him up would work to our advantage and make their guards work,” said Myles. “I’m proud of my guys for sticking to the game plan.”
“We knew we were tougher than them,” said Toles. “We’re faster, quicker, more aggressive…we had to play to our strengths.”
The Panthers opened the second quarter with 10-2 run, turning a 19-16 lead into 29-18. Alexander, a freshman who’s been a revelation for the Panthers in the early season, scored seven points in the second quarter and fed Toles for a dunk.
Trailing 38-26 at halftime, Abington shaved the deficit to 53-45 after three periods, and 54-47 early in the fourth after Dixon scored inside. Senior forward/center Jason Murphy answered with a basket off the glass, sparking an 8-0 run to regain command for St. Frances at 62-47 midway in the fourth.
Myles, whose team beat St. Maria Goretti in a key BCL match Wednesday, said depth and unselfishness will be key.
“Different guys did it on different days and that’s what we got to do this year,” said Myles. “We got to play hard and share the ball. We got a good chance this year if we do those things.”
No. 13 St. Vincent Pallotti lost to Gonzaga in the 5th place game, 60-49. Isaiah Oshinnaiye finished with 18 points for the Panthers (3-3), and was selected to the all-tournament team.
Pallotti defeated Riverdale Baptist in a consolation match Saturday after a 65-63 loss to Whitney Young in Friday’s opening round.
Gonzaga (DC) Classic
No. 1 St. Frances Academy 77, Abington (PA) 54
Abington – Waller 2, Brown 6, Frazier 2, Scott 1, Monroe 11, Dixon 32. Totals 12 29-37 54.
St. Frances – Jones 8, Baldwin 19, Busby 1, Brown 4, Alexander 18, Murphy 6, West 9, Toles 10. Totals 28 16-24 77.
Abington 16 10 19 9 – 54
St. Frances 18 20 15 24 – 77