St. Frances figures out No. 1 Mount St. Joseph for BCL XLIX championship; Baldwin claims third straight MVP (VIDEO HERE!)


2020 BALTIMORE CATHOLIC LEAGUE TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS

ST. FRANCES ACADEMY PANTHERS


by Derek Toney and Joe DiBlasi

Before he became widely known as “Ace,” Adrian Baldwin scored on a put-back at the buzzer, giving St. Frances Academy’s boys basketball team an improbable come-from-behind victory over Chicago powerhouse Morgan Park at a mixer at Poly in January 2017. Baldwin, a freshman guard, was carried off the floor by his teammates.

Even back then, Baldwin had an innate flair for the dramatic. Sunday, he capped his memorable varsity career in style.

No. 2 St. Frances defeated top-ranked Mount St. Joseph, 81-65, in the 49th Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championship game in front of nearly 2,000 at Loyola University’s Reitz Arena. Baldwin posted a double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds, in his final area match for the Panthers (38-4 overall).

The East Baltimore school started fast and finished strong against the Gaels (29-6), who denied the Panthers in the MIAA A Conference final last weekend at Harford Community College.

Sunday, St. Frances completed the fifth 3-peat in BCL Tourney history, and Baldwin became the first player to win three straight tourney MVP honors since former Panther and BCL Hall of Famer Mark Karcher in the late 1990s.

Karcher, who coached St. Frances to the 2009 BCL tourney title (last before 3-peat run), is considered one of the best in the storied history of Baltimore prep hoops.

Baldwin, who will play for Virginia Commonwealth University next season, solidified his spot Sunday.

“Three BCL MVPs, four championships in four years, he’s got to be one of the best players to come out of St. Frances and one of the best to come out of Baltimore,” said St. Frances coach Nick Myles. “His will to win, the drive to want to win every game, every second.”

For the first time this season, Baldwin and the Panthers put together a 32-minute effort against Mount St. Joseph, which defeated them in two of three prior meetings to Sunday. It would’ve been three-for-three if not Baldwin’s heroics in the final five minutes on Valentine’s Night as St. Frances rallied from a 13-point fourth quarter deficit.

“It was a great environment, and everybody came to play,” said Baldwin. “We really wanted this one after losing to them last Sunday.”

Myles said Mount St. Joseph’s MIAA A title celebration on social media struck a chord.

“We were focused, prepared and locked in today,” said Myles.

It started with Khyrie Staten, intercepting a St. Joe’s pass under the basket and scoring the game’s first basket. Baldwin drained the first of his five 3-pointers, giving the Panthers a 9-0 lead.

Mount St. Joseph drew to 21-17 after a basket from Jason Edokpayi, but a Baldwin 3-pointer – sandwiched between four Jamal West’s free throws – pushed St. Frances’ advantage to 28-17.

The lead was 41-28 at halftime.

“Everybody had to buy in,” said West. “When everybody buys in and play their role, everybody wins. We got off to a fast start and kept it going.”

The Panthers made it 43-28 as Baldwin opened the second half a basket, after a West defensive rebound. But the Gaels, seeking their first BCL tourney crown since 2017, fought back.

The Irvington school went on a 13-2 run as Edokpayi, the BCL’s Most Improved Player this season, scored off a pass from D’Angelo Stines, to pull to 45-41 with 4 minutes, 22 seconds remaining in the third.

The Panthers answered with a Byron Ireland layup, starting an 8-0 run that pushed their advantage back into double digits. Edokpayi’s jumper beat the third quarter buzzer, bringing Mount St. Joseph to 55-48.

The fourth quarter belonged to Baldwin. The lefty point guard scored 10 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers, giving St. Frances a commanding 75-58 lead late in regulation.

Baldwin, who wielded out 16 assists in Friday’s semifinal rout of Loyola, was pleased to see his team showed why they’re one of the nation’s top teams.

“It wasn’t just me today, it was the whole team,” Baldwin said. “Coach had us ready to play we came out and fought hard.”

The Panthers, ranked No. 17 nationally by ESPN, had five players in double figures with Staten finishing with 15 points and Ireland adding 11 and three assists. West and junior Julian Reese each had 10, and sophomore reserve post Andre Roy also had 10 points and seven rebounds.

It started with Baldwin, who joins Karcher and former St. Maria Goretti and North Carolina State standout Rodney Monroe as the only three-time MVP in BCL Tournament history.

Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey provided the greatest compliment an opposing coach can give to a player.

“I’m glad he’s graduating,” he said.

Clatchey said the fast start was huge for a St. Frances team that was “pissed off” after being dominated by his squad in the first three meetings. The Gaels stayed close Sunday, but it obvious early they didn’t have another near flawless effort in them.

“A game like this will sting for a while, but overall we’re proud about our season,” he said. “We’re obviously  disappointed today but a 29-6 record on the season, and an MIAA championship, we’ll take that.”

Edokpayi and Stines, who were named to the all-tournament team, finished with 19 and 15 points, respectively for St. Joe. Mount Carmel’s Deon Perry and West was also selected.

Baldwin held the John Pleyvak MVP and Brother D. John Smith championship trophies as he took pictures with his teammates following St. Frances’ record 10th tournament title.

Last year, Baldwin lost his dad to cancer. He’s dedicated his final season in his memory.

“I just wanted to make him proud,” said Baldwin.

BCL XLIX CHAMPIONSHIP

AT LOYOLA UNIVERSITY

No. 2 St. Frances Academy 81, No. 1 Mount St. Joseph 65

Mount St. Joseph – Edokpayi 19, Hamlin 15, Stines 13, Brelsford 9, Crawley 9. Totals 24 9-13 65.

St. Frances – Baldwin 23, Staten 14, Ireland 11, Reese 10, Roy 10, West 10, Curtis 3. Totals 27 18-21 81.

Mount St. Joseph 12 16 20 17 – 65

St. Frances 19 22 14 26 – 81