BLOOMFIELD HILLS– When discussing “program wins,” victories that boost the profile of a particular sports program, they don’t get much bigger than what Birmingham Brother Rice’s boys basketball team pulled off Tuesday night.
Playing in front of a capacity home crowd, Brother Rice upset Detroit U-D Jesuit 58-53, rebounding from a sluggish first-quarter start to defeat the No. 5 squad in the state in a see-saw affair down the stretch that featured a half-dozen lead changes in the closing four and a half minutes.
Prior to Tuesday, the Warriors had not beaten Catholic League Central-rival U-D Jesuit on the hardwood in five years.
Brother Rice raised its record to 11-4. U-D Jesuit slipped to 13-2. Two weeks ago, U-D Jesuit defeated Brother Rice 62-46 in it’s home gym.
The host-Warriors found themselves behind 19-4 to open the game Tuesday, but quickly fought their way to back into contention.
Trailing 25-23 at halftime and 39-38 after three quarters, Brother Rice took the lead for good on a breakaway lay-up by senior captain Ryan Jordan. The score resulted off an out-of-bounds play underneath the U-D Jesuit basket with 15 seconds left and put the Warriors in front 54-53.
U-D Jesuit turned the ball over on the ensuing possession and Brother Rice seniors Drew Gallagher and Dominic Downs drilled game-securing free throws in the closing moments.
Cassius Winston, U-D Jesuit’s all-state junior point guard who led the Cubs to an appearance in the Class A final four last year, finished with a game-high 24 points. He provided U-D Jesuit its last lead of the evening on a put-back hoop with 20 seconds on the clock.
Senior wing Kevin Hayes paced the Brother Rice stat sheet with a double-double of 16 points and 12 boards. Gallagher had 14 points and Downs 10, including a critical game-tying 3 late in the fourth quarter.
“My seniors were the difference tonight, they just hung in there and made plays when we needed them,” Warriors head coach Ed Shaffer said.
Shaffer’s troops are proving battle-tested. In 2014, Brother Rice was 1-7 in league action. This winter they finished 5-3. On Friday, the Warriors went on the road and squeaked by Warren De La Salle in overtime.
U-D Jesuit was coming off an inspiring victory over the weekend against state-ranked Saginaw Arthur Hill.
“I’m disappointed,” Cubs head coach Pat Donnelly said. “We didn’t compete with the kind of intensity you have to bring to come out of a place like this with a win. They (Brother Rice) played with passion and poise and we were lacking it when it counted the most.”