St. Frances slams Mount Carmel for 12th straight victory; Ireland scores 25 (VIDEO HERE!)

Three Aces: The backcourt of Elijah Davis (left), Khyrie Staten and Byron Ireland paced St. Frances to another boys basketball triumph Monday. The Panthers improved to 12-0 with an 82-59 victory over Mount Carmel, 82-59, on Senior Night in East Baltimore.

by Derek Toney

St. Frances Academy boys basketball honored its seniors before Monday evening’s game with Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Then came tip-off, and the Panthers continued their march towards Baltimore basketball immortality.

St. Frances defeated the Cougars, 82-59, inside Phelps Gym in East Baltimore. Senior guard Byron Ireland scored 25 points for the Panthers, and Cortez Johnson added 14 points and five rebounds.

The East Street school overwhelmed Mount Carmel, turning turnovers into transition baskets and or open perimeter shots, improving to 12-0 overall and 6-0 in Baltimore Catholic League play. The Panthers can claim a fourth straight BCL regular season title – a feat only done twice in the league’s 50-year history – with a victory over Mount St. Joseph Wednesday evening at Phelps.

In this abbreviated BCL golden anniversary season, St. Frances has been a cut above. The Panthers, looking to become the first team since the mid-1970s to win four consecutive BCL Tourney titles, led by as many as 25 points Monday.

“I think our guys just rose to the occasion,” said St. Frances coach Nick Myles. “This was our first close game in a while and the guys were focused and played hard.”

“We’ve been taking it each game at a time,” said Ireland.

Ireland, who transferred from Annapolis after his sophomore season, drained four 3-pointers Monday and added five rebounds and three assists. Backcourt mates Khyrie Staten and Elijah Davis combined for 16 points.

The trio has more than compensated after the graduation of Adrian “Ace” Baldwin, VSN’s two-time Player of the Year and three-time BCL Tournament MVP. Baldwin is the starting point guard for NCAA Tourney-bound Virginia Commonwealth.

“I don’t want to say they took a backseat, but it’s their time to step up,” said Myles. “Ace’s surely a Baltimore basketball legend and now it’s their turn to show how good they are.”

“We haven’t played our basketball yet,” said Davis, a Mississippi Valley State commit who had eight points and five assists. “That’s going to come next week for playoffs.”

The Panthers, who’ve won all their decisions by double-digit margins, trailed only once (11-10) Monday. They led 25-19 after Ireland’s 3-pointer closed the opening eight minutes.

St. Frances put a stranglehold late in the first half, starting with Davis driving the lane and dishing off to precocious 6-foot-8 freshman Derik Queen for a dunk. Staten added a couple of baskets before freshman Daquan Davis’ 3-point dagger capped an 11-2 run, giving the Panthers a 44-27 halftime lead.

It went to 50-27 early in the third after Ireland’s dunk off a Mount Carmel turnover. The Cougars (10-2, 4-2 BCL) got no closer than 17 points in the second half as junior guard Toby Nnadozie finished with 21 points.

Mount Carmel coach Trevor Quinn said the first half – full of turnovers and defensive lapses – was his team’s undoing.

“The first quarter, we were kind of trading baskets and you really can’t do that — it’s not sustainable when you’re playing St. Frances,” said Quinn. “The thing that hurt us the most was transition defense. In the second quarter, I don’t know, they had like six run-outs for layups and you just can’t defend that.”

Despite the loss, Mount Carmel can do no worse than fourth in the regular season standings, meaning a home BCL Tourney quarterfinal game Monday. The Cougars play at John Carroll School Wednesday afternoon in the regular season finale.

The BCL regular season crown will again come down to St. Frances and Mount St. Joseph Wednesday evening. The Panthers defeated Gaels in last year’s BCL Tournament final at Loyola University after St. Joe’s denied them in the MIAA A Conference title match.

“It’s the best rivalry in Baltimore basketball and I can’t wait for Wednesday night at 7 o’clock,” said Myles.

St. Frances Academy 82, Our Lady of Mount Carmel 59

Mount Carmel – Toby Nnadozie 21, Deon Perry 15, Tados Gardonis 9, Andrew Dixon 4, Kevin Kalu 4, Kevin Chinnia 2, Mitchell Kalu 1. Totals 23 6-9 59.

St. Frances – Byron Ireland 25, Cortez Johnson 14, Elijah Davis 8, Khyrie Staten 8, Tevin Curtis 7, Daquan Davis 5, Lenard Taylor 3, Darrian Jones 2, Jahnathan Lamothe 2, Julian Reese 2. Totals 39 3-4 82.

Mount Carmel 19 8 14 18 – 59

St. Frances 25 19 14 24 – 82