Ace Valentine and Bryson Tucker combine for 29 points as the Gaels come-from-behind at John Carroll, 53-50


by Gary Adornato

With just about a week to prepare for a basketball season many thought would never come, both Mount St. Joseph and John Carroll, which each sport youthful rosters, looked rough in the early going of their MIAA A Conference/Baltimore Catholic League opener, Wednesday night in Bel Air.

The host Patriots got hot in the second quarter, building a nine-point halftime lead, before St. Joe rallied in the second half behind sophomore Ace Valentine and freshman Bryson Tucker to pull out a 53-50 win.

Sophomore Ace Valentine, playing his varsity basketball game, scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half and put Mount St. Joe in front with a three-pointer with one minute to play.

Valentine, playing his first varsity game scored 14 points, with all but two coming in the second half. His three-pointer with 1-minute to play pushed St. Joe on top by two.

Tucker, who is only 14 years old, scored 15 points in his high school debut and provided the Gaels some stellar work on the defensive end. His three-pointer with 5:36 to play in the final quarter pulled the Gaels within one, setting the stage for the winning surge at the end. In addition, D’Angelo Stines scored 11 points and drained two clutch three-pointers in the fourth quarter, including one with 11 seconds remaining to put the Gaels in control.

“Ace is a sophomore and he and Bryson Tucker, for guys playing in their first varsity game, were terrific,” said St. Joe head coach Pat Clatchey, who surpassed the late Jerry Savage as the BCL’s all-time leader in games coached with 381. “They both hit big shots and competed hard on the defensive end. Sean Carr also did a great job on the glass, especially on the kick-out to D’Angelo for a big three.”

After building an 11-8 lead, St. Joe managed just one field goal and seven points in the second quarter. Not exactly lighting it up from the field themselves, the Patriots were effective in slashing to the basket and getting to the free throw line in the second quarter. Down 13-11, John Carroll took the lead with a 7-0 run, with all seven points coming from the charity stripe. Later in the quarter, senior Jalen Bryant, who led JC with 16 points, hit a pair of threes, a free throw and a driving layup to cap off an 11-point quarter and send the Patriots to the intermission with a 27-18 advantage.

St. Joe closed the gap rapidly in the third quarter, as Valentine scored nine points in the frame. The Gaels got within one point of the lead on three different occasions before finally going back on top, 38-37, on a pair of free throws from Aidan Mess. Bryant returned the lead to John Carroll heading into the final quarter and the Patriots stretched their advantage to 45-41 early in the fourth. MSJ pulled back within one two more times before taking the lead on Valentine’s three at the one minute mark.

“We did not necessarily make an adjustment in the second half,” said Clatchey of his team’s improved performance after the break. “It was just getting acclimated, but I did think John Carroll played more assertive than we did in the first half. I told the team the first four minutes of the second half were crucial.”

John Carroll had two chances to tie in the late going, as Bryant was fouled on a three-point attempt with 4.8 seconds to play and his team trailing 52-49. He missed the first free throw, made the second and then, after a timeout, fired the ball off of the rim but committed a lane violation before he could retrieve it. St. Joe’s Ausar Crawley then went to the line for a 1-and-1 opportunity, but only made the first shot, as the Gaels led 53-50, with three seconds remaining. John Carroll got off a half court shot at the buzzer but it came up short and the Gaels survived.

In addition to Bryant, John Carroll got 13 points from sophomore Jeannot Basima and 10 from junior Tyson Commander.

“It was an ugly game, but we have good kids and the young guys took over,” added Clatchey. “We’re all dealing with a lot of crazy times, but I told the kids they hung tough and found a way to win.”

With regard to surpassing Savage’s games coached record, Clatchey was humble.

“It just means I’m old and I have been coaching a long time,” he said. “I grew up following the league. I started watching when I was 11 or 12. There have been so many legendary coaches, but it is not usually a long tenured thing in this league. I have been fortunate to make it work at St. Joe.”

John Carroll coach Seth Goldberg praised his team’s effort.

“I’m proud of our guys,” said Goldberg. “They played hard and we had our moments. We let one slip away. We’re excited to get back out there and continue to grow.”

MOUNT ST. JOSEPH 53, JOHN CARROLL 50

MSJ 11 7 20 15 — 53
JC 8 19 12 11 — 50

MOUNT ST. JOSEPH: Ausar Crawley 5, Sean Carr 6, D’Angelo Stines 11, Aidan Mess 2, Ace Valentine 14, Bryson Tucker 15. TOTALS: 19 10-16 53

JOHN CARROLL: TJ Vaughn 2, Terry Long, Jr. 2, Jalen Bryant 16, Tyson Commander 10, Jaiden Jakubowski 2, Cesar Tchilombo 5, Jeannot Basima 13. TOTALS: 18 12-17 50