John Carroll stops Mount St. Joseph for spot in BCL 50 semifinals; Commander scores 22 (VIDEO HERE!)

The backcourt of Tyson Commander (left) and Jalen Bryant carried John Carroll into the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament semifinals Monday. Commander had 22 points and Bryant finished with 14 as the Patriots eliminated Mount St. Joseph in a quarterfinal contest in Irvington.

by Derek Toney

After blowing a fourth quarter lead against Gilman School a few weeks ago, John Carroll School boys basketball needed to take a step back.

“We spent a lot of time talking about the things we can’t control and getting back to the basics,” said Patriots coach Seth Goldberg. “Short season and you’re like ‘what are we going to do.’ For this group of guys, it’s always been let’s play hard, let’s be together, let’s have fun and enjoy the moments.”

The Patriots are having fun and find themselves on the verge of the Baltimore Catholic League tournament final. John Carroll defeated Mount St. Joseph, 67-65, in an opening round match at The Smith Center in Irvington.

Junior guard Tyson Comander scored a game-best 22 points for the Patriots (9-5 overall), and Jalen Bryant added 14. D’Angelo Stines tied for game-high honors with 22 for the Gaels (10-3), and Ausar Crawley finished with 21.

Up 28 points early in the second half, the Bel Air school repelled a Gael charge to secure a spot in the BCL Tournament’s 50th anniversary final four. The sixth-seeded Patriots will play No. 2 seed Archbishop Spalding, Wednesday evening at 7:30 at Calvert Hall College.

John Carroll has rolled off seven straight victories since the Gilman loss. The Patriots dominated Mount St. Joseph in the first half Monday, and kept their composure in the closing minutes to advance to the semis for the first time since 2018.

“We were strong in the first half and that fueled us in the second half,” said Commander. “It’s the playoffs and we’re having fun.”

Commander, whose reverse dunk highlighted an exhilarating first half showing by John Carroll, had the defining play late in regulation. The Gaels, taking advantage of a flagrant foul against the Patriots, pulled to 58-54 with 1 minute, 54 seconds left in regulation.

John Carroll quickly pushed the ball and Commander, off a bounce pass from Bryant, calmly buried a 3-pointer. The 6-foot-2 lefty marksman had four trifectas Monday.

“They were on a run so I had a big shot and had to take it,” said Commander, who had two field goals in the second half after scoring 15 points in the opening 16 minutes.

“The reality is it’s just not Tyson’s confidence it’s the confidence the team has in Tyson,” said Goldberg. “It’s the confidence they all have in each other. They don’t go outside of who they are.”

The Patriots were in the infantile stage of finding their identity when they lost to Mount St. Joseph, 54-51, in the season debut last month. John Carroll led by as many as 11 points, and eight entering the fourth quarter.

Monday, the Patriots had 43 points in the opening half, attacking on the both ends. It was 43-18 at halftime, courtesy of 24-7 second quarter breakout.

“That was our first game in about a year so we were getting into the groove of things. Now, we’re locked in,” Commander said.

John Carroll was in the proverbial zone when Bryant opened the third with a 3-pointer, making it 46-18. The Patriots would make one more field goal the rest of the quarter, and Mount St. Joseph, the standard in the BCL for nearly three decades, mounted a comeback.

The Gaels got the deficit into single digits at 56-47 after a layup from freshman Bryson Tucker capped a 9-0 spurt. Commander stopped the bleeding with two free throws, but Stines converted three free throws after being fouled on a deep 3-point attempt with 2:25 remaining.

After Patriots post Cesar Tchlimbo was whistled for intentionally swinging his elbows after getting an offensive rebound, Crawley hit two free throws. Mount St. Joseph retained possession and Crawley found senior post Sean Carr for an easy layup, bringing the hosts to within 58-54.

The Gaels were unable to make one possession match as Commander’s dagger made it 61-54. John Carroll converted six of nine free throws in the final minute.

Mount St. Joseph made three 3-pointers in the final seconds, including a heave from Stines from just inside half court as the buzzer sounded.

For the first time since 1999, Mount St. Joseph will not participate in the BCL semifinals.

“I just felt like their (John Carroll) effort, energy, intensity really dictated the first half. We got back on our heels and we can’t do that at this time of the year,” said Gaels coach Pat Clatchey. “It was frustrating and extremely disappointing.

“We had a valiant effort in the second half, but this is the time of the year you either win or lose, and if you lose, you go home and we’re going home.”

The season continues for John Carroll, which is a win away from its first BCL championship game since hoisting the Brother D. John Smith Trophy in 2016. The Patriots lost to Spalding, 78-68, in Bel Air last month.

Two seasons ago, John Carroll finished 5-24.

“I’m big on culture and from the moment I walked in I wanted our guys to care more about things that are important in this game than winning a game,” said Goldberg, who guided St. Paul’s School for 12 seasons before going to John Carroll. “That’s how they played tonight, they valued the small things which gave them a chance to win in the end. If we keep getting better at that, it’s not about winning one game or two games, it’s about making sure we’re better each day.”

John Carroll School 67, Mount St. Joseph 65

John Carroll – Tyson Commander 22, Jalen Bryant 14, Jeannot Basima 10, Cesar Tchilombo 7, Jaiden Jakubowski 5, Terry Long 2, Joel Turay 2. Totals 23 16-22 67.

Mount St. Joseph – D’Angelo Stines 22, Ausar Crawley 21, Sean Carr 9, Bryson Tucker 9, Austin Abrams 2. Totals 22 14-18 65.

John Carroll 19 24 7 17 – 67

Mount St. Joseph 11 7 16 31 – 65