NOVI — Novi Detroit Catholic Central wasn’t going to let another opportunity to win a close game at home slip through its fingers.
On Tuesday, the Shamrocks carried a 39-31 lead into the fourth quarter before Orchard Lake St. Mary’s roared back to a 52-50 win.
Friday night was different.
Instead of giving up a lead, Catholic Central battled against Brother Rice on its way to a 66-61 win in overtime for its first win of the season in league play.
According to Shamrocks’ head coach Bill Dyer, the difference was his team finished.
“We willed ourselves to finish. We practiced really hard all week for this chance,” he said. “I’m happy for this team and our seniors, especially. We were close (on Tuesday with 20 seconds to play) and we didn’t finish.
“This time we finished.”
With 57 seconds to play and Catholic Central (5-3, 1-2 CHSL) in the double bonus, senior guard Noah Lee had a chance to build the Shamrocks’ lead to three points after he got fouled when he crossed the time line.
Lee hit the first free throw, but was iced by a timeout called by Brother Rice (6-3, 1-2 CHSL). But that didn’t bother Lee.
Instead he said he just blocked out the moment and played within himself.
“At that moment nothing was going through my mind,” he said. “It was just like practice. I’ve practiced free throws a thousand times for times like this. If you can just focus and not get lost in the moment things play out.”
After he hit the second shot from the charity stripe, the Warriors tied the game, 54-54 with 35 seconds left on a clutch 3-pointer by senior Stephen Westbrooks on his only attempt of the night.
“He hadn’t played for a quarter and a half. It felt like he sat for a month,” Brother Rice head coach Ed Shaffer said.
“But then, Stevie comes in and hits a huge three. He’s great that way. He’s the kind of guy that can score when you need it. It was a great shot.”
The game the entire night played to that type of ebb and flow between both squads. The tide turned though after Brother Rice junior Dominic Downs (17 points) opened overtime with a quick lay-up.
Catholic Central then clamped down on defense and made an 8-0 run to build a lead the Warriors couldn’t eclipse.
With 18 seconds left, Lee (21 points) found himself in familiar territory at the free throw line to ice the game, 66-61, when he hit both of his free throws completing a stretch of 7-of-8 attempts in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“He’s gusty and he’s tough. He’s the typical Catholic Central kid we want to have in our program” Dyer said.
“He just plays so hard. He works the hardest out of a lot of kids in the off season, and he deserved to hit those free throws. I’m proud of him.”
Catholic Central also received a spark from fellow senior Charlie Ryan who carried the Shamrock offense in the first half with 14 points before being held to only four in the second half.
Dyer said it was nice the 6-foot-7 center could get his team going early.
“He was really hot, and was just on fire from about everywhere on the floor,” Dyer said. “He just shot the ball so well, it was a great spark to help ease us into the game.”
Not to be out done, however, Brother Rice junior Kevin Hayes (21 points) played terrific in the second half. The junior utilized the back door cuts and kept players out of position to help the Warriors claim the lead twice in the third quarter.
“Kevin has really grown up, and it showed tonight. He had to adjust his game from the first half where he was getting pushed around. But in the second half, he was more aggressive and played well around the basket. He cut well, and he finished around the hoop,” Shaffer said.
Catholic Central hopes to ride the momentum of its first league win next week when the Shamrocks hit the road to play Warren De La Salle, while Brother Rice will prepare for Pontiac Notre Dame Prep.