John Carroll School boys’ basketball team’s invite to ESPN Rise’s National High School Invitational was a nice reward for its groundbreaking season. Though the Patriots achieved all of their goals, they weren’t looking to get some complimentary t-shirts as they faced Montrose Christian in the opening round Thursday.

Before a national cable audience, the area’s No. 1 team went blow-for-blow with the perennial national powerhouse. In the end, John Carroll couldn’t get over the proverbial hump, falling 64-59 at Georgetown Prep’s Hanley Center.

Villanova University recruit Tyrone Johnson led Montrose Christian (24-1 overall) with 19 points, and Michael Carerra added 17 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Senior guard Ronald Scott scored a game-high 25 points for John Carroll (33-5) and Malcolm McMillian finished with 13 points and a team-best six rebounds.

The MIAA A and Baltimore Catholic League champs missed on three chances to either tie or gain the lead in the final two minutes of regulation. Though John Carroll was the only team in the eight-team field without a national ranking, it showed again it can run with the best.

“We felt we could win this game,” said John Carroll coach Tony Martin. “We wanted to stay aggressive. We wanted them to make plays, we wanted them to take shots. We didn’t want any regrets or play not to win.”

John Carroll refused to give in to the nation’s No. 3 squad by USA Today and ESPN Rise after falling behind eight points in the second half. The Patriots were within 59-57 after a basket by McMillian, then they forced a Montrose turnover.

McMillian, the co-player of the year in BCL, missed a three-pointer from the corner, but came back with a clean pick of Johnson and started down the court with Scott running with him for a 2-on-1 break. With Montrose Christian guard Carmelo Bentancourt back on defense, McMillan passed off to Scott.

Scott hesitated as Johnson went up for a block attempt. As he released the ball to the glass, Montrose’s Justin Anderson came from behind and swatted the ball off the backboard and into the hands of Carrera, who would score inside off a feed by Bentancourt (four assists), giving the Montgomery County school a 61-57 lead with 1:03 remaining in regulation.

McMillian’s two free throws made it a two-point game with 54.9 seconds left, and John Carroll gained another opportunity to tie or take lead after another Montrose turnover. Jarred Jones missed a three-pointer from the corner, leading to two free throws by Johnson with 37.8 seconds remaining.

Jones, McMillan and Scott, the backbone to John Carroll’s breakthrough campaign, were left to wonder after a third straight close call against one of the District area’s elite. The Patriots lost to DeMatha Catholic and Gonzaga (D.C.) at the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament two weekends ago.

“They’re the No. 3 team in the country and we would have to capitalize on everything,” said McMillan. “We missed a couple of open shots and that block [Anderson] was real big. You got to capitalize against a great team like that and we didn’t.”

“If we hit one of those shots maybe it would be a different situation right now,” said Jones, who had 11 points and four rebounds.

The Patriots were aggressive at the outset, leading 26-24 after the opening quarter. With Jones in foul trouble, John Carroll tempered the pace but owned a 33-29 advantage with under two minutes left in the first half.

john carroll basketballMontrose Christian regained the lead early in the third, then Anderson, a 6-foot-7 junior who recently gave a verbal commitment to Maryland, finished it off. After Jones lost the ball near midcourt, Anderson picked the ball up and went in for a slam.

Anderson grabbed a loose ball under the basket and put it off the glass as the buzzer sounded, giving Montrose its largest lead at 51-43. The Rockville school led by seven midway in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t put away John Carroll.

“They created a lot of matchup problem for us,” said Montrose Christian coach Stu Vetter, whose team finished No. 1 in the Washington area. “We tried to establish our inside game and did a much better job of it in the second half.”

Montrose won the rebounding battle, 35-20, but the war wasn’t settled until the final seconds. The Patriots’ five losses this season were by a total of 23 points.

“We took our shots from our best players. They [Montrose] won the game,” said Martin. “We have no regrets.”

ESPN Rise Invitational

at Georgetown Prep 

First round

Montrose Christian 64, No. 1 John Carroll School 59

John Carroll26981659
Montrose Christian2411161364
John Carroll: Scott 25, McMillan 13, M. Owona 1, Jones 11, Elliott 6, Stokes 3. Totals: 17 17-23 59
Montrose Christian: Johnson 19, Hubbard 12, Anderson 11, Blossom 2, Carrera 17, Larsen 3. Totals 22 15-20 64.
Halftime: John Carroll 35, Montrose Christian 35