St. Frances turns away Spalding in BCL hoops opener; Staten scores 29 (VIDEO HERE!)

Archbishop Spalding guard Ty Peterson (2) is pressured by St. Frances’ Daquan Davis (left) and Khyrie Staten during the second half of Wednesday’s boys basketball contest. The Panthers led wire-to-wire for a 96-78 victory in Severn.

by Derek Toney

Last season, Khyrie Staten was the unsung hero for St. Frances Academy’s boys basketball team. In the Panthers’ season debut Wednesday evening, Staten showed he’s ready to wear the proverbial Superman cape.

Staten scored a career-high 29 points, leading St. Frances to a 96-78 victory over Archbishop Spalding in a Baltimore Catholic League contest in Anne Arundel County. Derick Queen and Jahnathan Lamothe added 14 and 13 points, respectively.

The Panthers led by as many as 23 points before withstanding a Spalding second half push to start a pursuit at history in the BCL’s landmark 50th season. The East Baltimore school will try to become the first team since Loyola Blakefield (1975-1978) to win fourth consecutive BCL Tournament championships.

St. Frances (1-0 overall and BCL), owners of nine BCL Tourney crowns since joining the BCL in the 1988-89 season, won a third straight championship last year behind point guard Adrian “Ace” Baldwin. Baldwin, a three-time BCL Tournament MVP and back-to-back VSN Player of the Year, is now starting at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Any question of who’s going to be the Panthers’ go-to performer in critical moments this truncated season may have been answered by Staten Wednesday evening. The 6-foot-1 Delaware State University recruit scored 15 points in the fourth quarter as Spalding closed to within seven.

“I had a slow first half, but when I got to the second half I warmed up,” said Staten. “I guess I got hot.”

Up 21 early in the second half, St. Frances’ lead was down to just 74-67 with four minutes left in regulation, then Staten answered with two free throws. After an impressive uncontested dunk by Spalding’s Cameron Whitmore, Staten calmly drained a 3-pointer from the corner.

Staten commended Whitmore on his dunk during a pause in play. Seconds later, Staten converted a 3-point play, extending the Panthers’ advantage to 82-69 with 3:09 to play.

The Cavaliers got no closer than 10 points as Staten went a perfect 7-of-7 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.

Staten was the prototypical glue guy last season for St. Frances, which finished No. 1 in the final VSN Top 20 and was ranked nationally by ESPN and MaxPreps. He often sacrifice his body going for loose balls.

“He’s a testament of what our program is about,” said Panthers coach Nick Myles. “Started on junior varsity, worked his way to playing spot minutes on varsity, was a major contributor last year and, this year, it’s time for him to take the next step.”

Myles said the Panthers’ veteran experience of Staten, Byron Ireland, Julian Reese and Elijah Davis was the difference in putting away the Cavaliers (0-1, 0-1).

It was the future, however, that propelled St. Frances early Wednesday. Lamothe, a 6-foot-4 sophomore shooting guard, scored the game’s first eight points and had three 3-pointers as the Panthers led 11-2 less than three minutes in.

Getting easy offensive opportunities while pressuring Spalding on the defensive end, St. Frances had complete control at 38-15 after Reese, an University of Maryland recruit, dropped a 3-pointer. It was 58-37 after a Staten’s trifecta early in the third, but Spalding began attacking the basket – and back into contention.

Trailing 69-54 at the start of the fourth, the Cavaliers scored nine of the first 12, capped with CJ Scott’s basket, to pull under double-digits, 72-63, for the first time since the opening minutes of regulation. Spalding shaved it to 74-67 after back-to-back scores from Jordan Pennick.

Whitmore, who finished with 26 points, made it 76-69 with his ferocious flush, but Staten and the Panthers didn’t flinch. Pennick added 25 and Scott finished with 12.

Cavaliers coach Josh Pratt, who took the team to the MIAA A playoffs for the first time in several seasons last year, was pleased with his team’s second half tenacity, but lamented numerous lapses, early and late.

The senior backcourt of Byron Ireland and Khyrie Staten got St. Frances Academy boys basketball off to a promising start Wednesday evening against Spalding. The defending Baltimore Catholic League champs won the first regular season match of the Baltimore Catholic League’s 50th campaign.

“In a regular season you’re trying to find your legs and who you are, and really it was a tale of two halves,” said Pratt. “We cut it to nine and thought we had a chance, but probably ran out of gas a little bit. Give to credit to those guys (St. Frances), they got size, athleticism…when you’re playing a team like that, you have to be disciplined. We’ll learn a lot from this game.”

Myles wasn’t pleased with his team’s defensive effort, but overall, is excited to be playing.

“We have a solid group of guys,” said Staten. “If we work as a team, we’ll be good throughout the season.”

St. Frances Academy 96, Archbishop Spalding 78

St. Frances – Khyrie Staten 29, Derik Queen 14, Jahnathan Lamothe 13, Julian Reese 12, Elijah Davis 9, Bryon Ireland 9, Daquan Davis 4, Rynell Bert 2, Tevin Curtis 2. Totals 32 16-25 96.

Spalding – Cameron Whitmore 25, Jordan Pennick 24, C.J. Scott 14, Ty Peterson 8, Jalen Bouknight 4, Jackson Saucier 2, Chi Nwosu 1. Totals 30 12-20 78.

St. Frances 26 28 15 27 – 96

Spalding 11 26 17 24 – 78