BIRMINGHAM – When titles are on the line, the Eaglets fly high.
No matter what their record, the Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Eaglets always seems to get hot late in the basketball season when there’s hardware at stake.
This year appears to be more of the same.
Recently pushing over the .500 mark in the win-loss column, St. Mary’s upset Birmingham Brother Rice 46-43 Wednesday in a Catholic League A-B Division semifinal. The Eagles’ victory locks down a reservation for their second straight trip to Calihan Hall and the CHSL championship game.
St. Mary’s (10-8) used an 8-2 run to end the second quarter and go ahead 26-22 at the half. Junior Jalon Bailey (15 points) hit a pair of 3-pointers to tip-off the third and then his two free throws with 2:11 left in the frame gave the Eaglets their largest lead of the evening at 40-30.
Brother Rice got itself back into things in the fourth and senior forward Kevin Hayes’ hoop in the lane placed the Warriors at the doorstep of the lead, trailing just 44-43 with 50 ticks of the clock remaining.
But St. Mary’s senior Lamon Mathison sank two free throws and Brother Rice couldn’t connect from deep in the closing moments for the tie.
St. Mary’s senior point guard Jason Boswell scored a team-high 18 points, 10 coming in the second quarter. His jumper with 1:02 to go in the first half propelled the Eaglets into an advantage on the scoreboard they wouldn’t look back from the rest of the night.
Longtime St. Mary’s head coach George Porritt appreciates his club’s tenacity.
“We battled for this one, we scrapped it out,” he said. “We were playing tough defense and had a couple of nice stretches there on offense with how we attacked and kicked out for the open shot. This is how we have to play to win ball games.”
Brother Rice received 24 points and 14 rebounds from Hayes, the Warriors all-league wing.
“We’re disappointed,” said Brother Rice head coach Ed Shaffer. “We wanted to go to Calihan. They (OLSM) just played better than we did. We didn’t do what we had to do tonight and St. Mary’s was a big reason for that.”
Shaffer and his Warriors (12-6) were in pursuit of their first trip to Calihan Hall and the CHSL finals in 16 years.
St. Mary’s has a rematch on its hands in Sunday afternoon’s CHSL championship game as they get ready to square off with Detroit U-D Jesuit. Last year, U-D Jesuit won 62-42.
U-D Jesuit has defeated St. Mary’s both times they played previously this winter. Before Wednesday, the Eaglets had lost both prior contests this season to Brother Rice.