Brother Rice opens basketball season with an unblemished 7-0 record

The Pilots’ Isaish Jones and Brother Rice’s Evan Kopf (3) play their own game of “hot potato” with an elusive basketball. Rice stepped up its tempo in the second half for an 63-42 victory in this Central Division encounter. (Photo courtesy of Parker Josephs)

WARREN — “They’re an unbelievable group. I’m happy to be around them every day.”

That’s coach Rick Palmer’s assessment of his Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice squad in light of a 63-42 thrashing of De La Salle on Thursday evening.

“Tonight not one guy was worried about who was scoring,” he said. “They just wanted to win.”

And winning, they are, off to an unblemished 7-0 start (2-0 atop the Central Division), the only undefeated team among the 26 schools that comprise the Catholic High School League.

And, just maybe, moving up a notch to the No. 1 ranking in the state after Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (4-1, 1-1) lost to University of Detroit Jesuit (5-1, 1-1), 60-55, a week ago, who in turn three days earlier lost to Brother Rice, 71-57.

“Yeah, No. 1 for maybe 10 seconds,” Palmer laughed.

That’s the way the basketball world in the CHSL has been evolving in recent years.

De La Salle (4-1, 1-1) was coming off a 54-53 victory over Novi Detroit Catholic Central (3-2, 0-1), but the Pilots, trailing by four points at the half, could manage a mere 16 points in the second half while Brother Rice stepped up its offense and clamped down on defense.

“A surprise in the early season has been Dave Williams, our point guard,” Palmer said. “That position was the big question mark coming into this year. He’s absolutely been phenomenal playing at a really high level.”

Williams scored nine points, made seven assists, snared five rebounds and five steals.

Sophomore Elijah Williams led the offense with 16 points, including three 3s. Another sophomore, Trevor Smith, contributed 11 points, and Luke Salkowski and Warren Marshall had 10 points apiece.

Six-foot-7 senior Nnaemeka Ikechi tallied 11 points for the Pilots along with a half-dozen rebounds.

“Looking ahead,” Palmer said, “we have to keep getting better. What I like about this group is that they practice hard. Our practices have been harder than our games. We’re getting better at a very big clip.”

At Orchard Lake, St. Mary’s bounced back in a big way from the disappointing loss to U of D Jesuit, trouncing defending Division 3 champion Flint Beecher, 89-47. Trey McKenney had 23 and Jayden Savoury 18. The Eaglets will host De La Salle after the holidays on Jan. 5, the same night that Brother Rice travels to Catholic Central.

In girls basketball, Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard (4-0, 1-0) leads the Central, while Jackson Lumen Christi (6-0, 2-0) and St. Mary’s Prep (5-0, 1-0) set the pace in the AA Division. They collide Jan. 19 at Orchard Lake.

Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].


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