Tony Martin arrived as head basketball coach at John Carroll six years ago with a vision and on Sunday afternoon at UMBC that vision was realized as his Patriots toppled two-time defending MIAA A Conference champion St. Frances, 70-58, to capture the Bel Air school’s first MIAA basketball crown.

Martin’s arrival followed an 0-25 campaign for the John Carroll basketball team.  Just two seasons later his Patriots set a school record with 28 victories and, one season later, moved from the MIAA B Conference to the A Conference.  Four years later, the Patriots have a new school record for wins (29) and they sit atop the A Conference as champions.

“This is a testament to six years of hard work,” Martin said on Sunday shortly after the championship game.  “All the coaches, all the great players and they stepped-up big time when the lights were bright.”

St. Frances competed, but in the end John Carroll was just too disciplined, too deep and too good to be denied.

Senior guards Ronald Scott and Malcolm McMillan combined for 40 points for the Patriots, while junior forward Jarred Jones scored 12 and was effective all over the floor.

Both teams struggled offensively for much of the first half and neither team led by more than two points until the final two minutes of the half.  The Patriots, however, broke a 20-20 tie when McMillan fed Rodney Elliott for a fast-break lay-up.  McMillan stretched the lead to four with a pair of free throws and Kamau Stokes sent the Patriots to the half with a 27-20 lead when he drained a three-pointer with 2.5 seconds left.

Scott hit two three pointers in the third quarter when he scored eight points and McMillan had six in the quarter, including a two-handed break-away jam, as John Carroll expanded its lead to 44-30.

St. Frances senior guard R.J. Williams sparked the Panthers in the fourth quarter, when he scored 12 of his 16 points, and St. Frances rallied within six, at 56-50, with 2:49 to play.  John Carroll led 60-53 with 1:30 remaining, but the Patriots went on a 9-2 run to seal the win.

Although Williams and junior Shakir Brown, who also finished with 16 points, kept St. Frances alive, the Panthers never established anything on the inside.  Senior center Greg Lewis was in foul trouble for much of the game and scored just two points before picking up his fifth personal with 7:17 to play.  John Carroll frustrated repeated attempts by the Panthers to get the ball inside and when Lewis did get his hands on the ball he was harassed.

“We’ve done a very good job with them all three games this year, in terms of bodying up their bigs,” said Martin of his team’s success on the defensive interior.  “I think the officials set the tone early by calling a lot of fouls, both ways.  I thought they did a very good job and at the end of the day we were a little tougher inside when it came down to it.”

Martin expressed great pride in the performance of his big three – Scott, McMillan and Jones.

“I wanted to get them out at the end of the game and give them their just due,” said Martin.  “They are the next three.  The Isaiah Philmores, Wyatt Smiths and Raphael Jordans, and those guys started this about six years ago and a couple of those guys were in the stands rooting us on.  So this is the next generation of our three veteran players and they earned it.”

Scott, who finished with a game high 23 points, said it was important for the Patriots to attack the St. Frances defense.

“I want to stay aggressive because when we take off the pressure of them playing defense, they can get easy steals and lay-ups,” said Scott.  “I wanted to stay aggressive and keep attacking.”

Attacking also got John Carroll to the free throw line frequently where they converted 23-of-29 attempts.  Scott, Jones and McMillan were even more impressive, combining to go 18-for-18 from the charity stripe.

“Free throws are a big part.  They are easy buckets,” said Jones.  “You make free throws, it expands the game.  When they foul us, we just knock them down.  It’s a big part.”

Scott added that the team works hard on its foul shooting.

“Actually in practice, yesterday, we shot a lot of free throws because free throws are very important in games.  You don’t even realize, but it is very important,” said Scott.

Jones, who many believe was the best player in the MIAA A/BCL this season, was a force on the boards and on defense.  He added a whole new dimension to the Patriot lineup after missing his sophomore campaign with an ACL injury.  He said winning a championship was his number one goal this winter.

“The fire within me came out,” said Jones.  “I knew it was a championship.  I wanted a championship the whole year and I finally got one.”

As far as his team’s success against the St. Frances front court, Jones said it was a matter of execution.

“We relied on our young bigs.  They knew what to do.  We had a game plan and we followed that game plan,” concluded the 6-7 junior.

 McMillan pointed out the team effort it took to become champions.

“We just had to work and do what we did all season – work together and listen to coach,” said McMillan who finished with 17 points.  “We definitely hit free throws, which we practice a lot and on the defensive end, we did what we did all year, strap up and win games.”

Williams, who is in the final stretch of a brilliant career at St. Frances said his team gave a strong effort.

“I am proud of my team, even though we lost.  We had a bunch of young guys on the court.  They tried their best to help us,” said Williams, who will play at Loyola University next year.  “Without Greg, we had no presence on the inside, but other than that I’m proud of my team.”

St. Frances head coach Mark Karcher, who is now 0-3 against John Carroll this year, explained why the Patriots are so difficult to handle.

“They stick to their game plan.  You can’t get them to turn the ball over.  Some times it is not even worth pressing them,” said Karcher.  “Their point guard is outstanding.  They got a good group of kids over there and he (Martin) gets the best out of all his kids.”

Karcher thought Lewis’ foul trouble was a critical handicap for his squad.

“That was one key for us.  Greg is our big fella and I think this might be the only game he fouled out this year,” added the third year coach.  “We couldn’t get a rhythm down under the basket and had to go small.”

The Patriots and Panthers may very well meet again next week in the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament, which gets underway Thursday and Friday with a pair of quarterfinal double headers at Calvert Hall and Mount St. Joseph, respectively.


John Carroll 70, St. Frances 58

St. Frances
John Carroll
St. Frances: Williams 16, Brown 16, Tarver 3, A. Costley 5, T. Costley 3, White 7, Lewis 2, Forney 6. Totals: 17 18-27 58.
John Carroll: Elliott 2, Scott 23, Martin 3, McMillan 17, Frink 2, Stokes 8, M. Owona 3, Jones 12.. Totals: 16 23-29 70.