St. Frances Academy needed a boost from its bench Sunday evening during its Baltimore Catholic League Tournament semifinal against Calvert Hall College. The Panthers got just that and find themselves on a verge of another BCL championship.

No. 4 St. Frances pulled away for a 60-53 victory over the Cardinals at Loyola University’s Reitz Arena. The Panthers will play No. 3 John Carroll, a 56-52 victor over No. 8 Mount St. Joseph, for the 40th BCL tourney crown, Tuesday night at 7 p.m. back at Reitz Arena.

Playing on his future home court, Williams scored a game-high 20 points for St. Frances (18-6 overall), and senior center Greg Lewis added 16. Justin Beck led Calvert Hall with 13 points, and Will Johnson and Denzel Richardson each finished with 12.

In completing a three-game sweep of the Cardinals, the east Baltimore school avenged an overtime loss in last year’s BCL semifinal round, ending its hopes of a third straight title. The Panthers received 15 points from their reserves to keep the pesky Cardinals at bay and move in position for a record eighth BCL title.

“They stepped up real big today. Some of our starters weren’t into the game,” said Williams. “Maurice [White], and them really played big.”

White, a sophomore, provided 11 points and six rebounds. Brothers Tyrus (junior guard/forward) and Allen (freshman) Costley gave St. Frances quality minutes.

“All I have to do is keep on playing,” said White, “keep getting loose balls and rebounds, whatever it takes to win.”

White was in the middle of arguably the game’s turning point. With the Panthers holding a 36-34 lead with under two minutes left in the third quarter, Calvert Hall’s Julian Davis missed an open layup, got the rebound and missed again. The Cardinals got the loose ball, but White forced Johnson into a five second call.

The Panthers ran some clock before Williams dished off to White for a layup, sending them into the fourth with a 38-34 advantage. St. Frances expanded the lead to 44-36 early in the fourth with White scoring twice and Allen Costley finishing in transition.

“I’ve been waiting for him to wake up,” said St. Frances coach Mark Karcher. “One thing I love about him is he goes real hard under the basket. He takes shot and gives us second and third chances to score.”

The Cardinals was still within striking distance at 50-44 on a Richardson layup with two minutes left in regulation, but a basket by White (assisted by Williams) sandwiched between a Lewis free throw and basket inside, put the contest out of reach. St. Frances never trailed Sunday, ending Calvert Hall’s title reign.

A year ago, Calvert Hall outlasted the Panthers in overtime then rallied from a 17-point first half deficit to stop Mount St. Joseph in the finals, bringing the Towson school its first BCL championship since 1984. The Cardinals graduated their senior core of Jon Graham, Kyle Wise, Donya Jackson and Damion Lee, but they were still a factor this season.

rj williams and maurice white“I’m really proud of our effort. We just missed too many layups,” said Calvert Hall coach John Bauersfeld, who was chosen by his counterparts as the league’s coach of the year. “A couple of those missed layups were the turning point in the game, they [St. Frances] came down on the other end and capitalized. We really rebound the ball in the second half. We were totally outsized against them.”

It will be about the guards Tuesday evening as St. Frances and John Carroll meet in the penultimate game of the BCL season. The Patriots, led by co-BCL player of the year Malcolm McMillan, are 3-0 against the Panthers this season including last week’s decision in the MIAA A finals at UMBC.

Williams, the other top performer in the BCL, seeks his third crown in four seasons. John Carroll is in its first season in the BCL.

“We’ve let them do what they want on offense. We have to play defense,” said Williams. “We’ve been beating them the last three years so it’s been hard taking those losses. I don’t think it’s going to happen this time.”

Baltimore Catholic League Tournament semifinals

at Loyola University

No. 4 St. Frances Academy 60, Calvert Hall College 53

Calvert Hall711161953
St. Frances1014142260
Calvert Hall: Wade 12, Richardson 10, Beck 13, Johnson 12, McVan 2, Bosse 2, Davis 2. Totals: 21 6-10 53.
St. Frances: Lewis 16, Williams 20, White 11, Brown 2, Tarver 2, T. Costley 1, A. Costley 4. Totals: 22 16-26 60.
Halftime: St. Frances 24, Calvert Hall 18