CHSL Central Division basketball: ‘Every team can beat any other team’

ORCHARD LAKE — The Catholic High School League’s boys basketball Central Division is off to another zany season.

St. Mary’s Prep and Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, the Nos. 1 and 2 squads respectively in pre-season rankings, have each had to eat a slice of humble pie in early season competition.

The Eaglets (2-1 in the Central, 7-1 overall) defeated St. John’s Jesuit — one of the three Toledo schools new to the CHSL this year — and Warren De La Salle and lost to University of Detroit Jesuit.

Brother Rice (2-1; 8-2) handily won its first eight games by an average of 22 points, two of them against Central foes, Warren De La Salle and U of D Jesuit, but was stunned in back-to-back losses last week, 55-53 to Novi Detroit Catholic Central and 47-42 in a non-league match against East Kentwood.

The Shamrocks (1-1, 6-2), meanwhile, lost by a single point, 54-53, to Warren De La Salle.

Three other teams are 1-1 in the Central: U of D Jesuit (overall 8-1), Toledo St. Frances de Sales (7-2) and St. John’s Jesuit (8-3).

Toledo Central Catholic is 0-1, 3-5 and De La Salle 1-2, 6-2.

U of D Jesuit veteran coach Pat Donnelly summed it up: “Every team in this league is capable of beating any other team.”

St. Mary’s and Brother Rice will battle it out Friday, Jan. 12, for Central leadership, as precarious as it may be with five weeks remaining on the schedule, at Rochester Oakland University’s Athletics Center O’Rena on its distinctive “blacktop” colored court. Tipoff is 7 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Both schools agreed on a neutral site to better accommodate crowds that overflowed their home courts the last couple of years when these two teams squared off. They will play there again on Feb. 2.

Junior forward Trey McKenney scored 18 of his game-high 20 points in St. Mary’s 39-25 output in the second and third quarters en route to a 54-40 decision over De La Salle last Friday evening.

Junior guard Sharod Barnes had 10 points and senior forward Dan Smythe also 10, nine via the three-point shot.

Smythe increased his school career record three-point success to 91. His brother, Will (2021 alum), made a spectacular 12 during a game in 2021, a one-game record for St. Mary’s and fourth best in state history.

“I take 300 to 500 (three-point) shots a day,” Dan Smythe said. “It takes about an hour and a half. I do it before school, before or after practice, sometimes during practice. That’s what I do on the court. That’s why I work on it.”

Columbia, Brown and the Naval Academy have indicated an interest in him.

The Pilots were unable to penetrate St. Mary’s rugged man-to-man defense. “We forced too many rough shots,” coach Gjon Djokaj said. “They did a great job closing the gaps. We ran out of patience.”

Junior Armoni Portis led De La Salle with 11 points.

Junior Phoenix Glassnor made his first appearance on court for the Pilots since he broke his collarbone in the Division 3 state football championship game last fall. He scored one point.

“He’s on a minutes restriction,” coach Djokaj said. “He should be back in full next week.” Glassnor averaged 19 points a game last year.

Coaches make their ranking

The Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan released their first rankings of the state’s boys high school basketball teams at the start of the new year. Here’s how the CHSL fared:

In Division 1: St. Mary’s 2nd, Brother Rice 5th, Catholic Central 6th, U of D Jesuit 7th.

East Lansing was rated No. 1. St. Mary’s will play the Trojans Feb. 3.

In Division 3, Riverview Gabriel Richard (7-1) No. 2 and Jackson Lumen Christi (6-1) No. 8. They meet Jan. 26 in Jackson.

In CHSL girls basketball, only Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard received a rating, first in Division 2. The Fighting Irish are 7-0.

Maybe play hockey on basketball floor?

It was 77 years ago — Jan. 31, 1947 — when St. Mary’s and De La Salle first squared off against one another in basketball. Last Friday’s game was the 59th in the series.

St. Mary’s won 15 of the first 23 games. Then, the Pilots won the next 15 games in a row.

The Eaglets recouped to win 14 of the next 20 contests to produce a 29-29 tie. Their 54-40 victory in the latest confrontation put them one up, 30-29. The teams meet again Jan. 19 at De La Salle.

On the ice, St. Mary’s situation is an astounding reversal.

It’s been 14 years — way back to Nov. 20, 2010 — since St. Mary’s beat Catholic Central, 3-2, in hockey. When Catholic Central beat St. Mary’s, 7-1, last week, it was the Eaglets’ 30th loss in a row along with two ties to the Shamrocks.

Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].



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