Men’s basketball claims second consecutive MIAA ‘A’ Conference title
Returning to the MIAA ‘A’ Conference championship game, the men’s varsity basketball team was looking for a second consecutive title, this year against Mount St. Joseph. JC duked it out against St. Joesph, who won the conference in the regular season, and emerged victorious, 44-41. This is the fourth consecutive time a team has won back-to-back titles in the last eight years, after St. Joseph, Towson Catholic, and St. Frances.
“Those three programs have been the staples in basketball recently. Our wins put [JC] up there with them,” head coach Tony Martin said.
During the regular season, JC lost to Mount St. Joseph twice, 57-69 and 46-49 after a period of overtime. This time, however, the outcome was different.
Senior forward Jarred Jones dominated on both ends of the floor, contributing a game high of 17 points to the final score. He captured four rebounds, blocked three shots, and held St. Joseph’s point guard junior Kameron Williams, who was named the Baltimore Catholic League Player of the Year, to a season low of five points. Williams is the Gaels overall leading scorer.
“We just had to finish the game,” Jones said to The Baltimore Sun. “Before, we played two straight games [against Mount St. Joseph] where we had lost after halftime. This time, we came out determined we weren’t going to lose this game. We had energy and passion, we learned from our mistakes and we played as a team. This feels great.”
During most of the first half, the Patriots maintained the lead, but every time their lead began to extend, St. Joseph battled right back. At the end of the first half, JC was leading by six, 22-16.
Halfway into the third quarter, one of the Gaels players threw down a massive dunk, which finished off a run against the Patriots, bringing the score to 24-23. JC responded with back-to-back baskets by junior Mike Owona and Jones, which led to a 28-23 advantage.
Owona finished the game with eight points, seven rebounds, two blocks, and one assist. The three Owona brothers – Mike, sophomore Lionel, and junior Christian – took turns underneath the basket keeping the Gael forwards’ influence to a minimum.
After a Gael buzzer-beater shot at the end of the third quarter and a baseline jump-shot in the opening moments of the fourth quarter, the Gaels acquired their first lead since the first two minutes of the game, 34-33. This lead was also their last.
The Patriots’ defense held their own by keeping the Gaels from scoring for the next three minutes and 50 seconds. This defensive prowess allowed JC to build a 39-33 lead with an Owona dunk and a layup off of a drive by senior Marcus James. In the final 36 seconds of the game, the Gaels were forced to resort to fouling to stop the clock.
On the foul line, the Patriots knocked down four straight free throws. Freshman Justin Jenifer had his shot on the line with five seconds left and a 43-41 lead. After making the first, he missed the second and Williams threw up a last second desperation shot in an attempt to send the game into overtime.
The shot missed to the right, and the Patriots were crowned MIAA ‘A’ Conference champions.
“Our guys were really ready this time. They were excited to play Mount St. Joseph, especially,” Martin said. The Patriots only had three turnovers – a season low.
This victory brought JC’s overall record to 26-6 as they head into the upcoming Baltimore Catholic League tournament at Stevenson University. JC will be playing St. Maria Goretti on Friday, Feb. 24 at 5:15 p.m.
“[Our record] starts all over again. It’s three games in three days. The target on our back is very big,” Martin said.
Miranda Ripken is a Sports Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.