CHSL ready for ‘madness’ on the basketball court and hockey rink

Fr. Gabriel Richard coach Rex Stanczak discusses strategy during a CHSL playoff game Feb 18 against Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett. The Irish lost and the next two games, too, until the Irish defeated Grosse Ile for Stanczak’s 400th win as head coach in a 30-year career. (Photo by Don Horkey | Special to Detroit Catholic)

DETROIT — While, rightfully, the metropolitan area’s primary concern in recent days was weather-related power blackouts, snow and ice storms, Catholic High School League athletes were going about making other headlines on several fronts.

A grand slam!

The CHSL won both the boys and girls “Operation Friendship” championship and consolation games between the champions and runners-up of the Catholic League and Detroit Public Schools League.

Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice and Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard won the boys and girls city championship trophies, respectively, in similar come-from-behind, heart-pounding overtime fashion.

Played last Friday evening at the University of Detroit Mercy's Calihan Hall, Brother Rice (21-1, ranked No. 2 in Division 1) versus Detroit Cass Tech (21-1, rated No. 1) lived up to the pre-game hype. Tied at 26 at the half, Cass Tech had a 10-point lead midway through the third quarter before the Warriors rallied to forge a 58-58 deadlock in regulation.

With 2.7 seconds remaining in OT, Rice’s junior forward Warren Marshall connected on a game-winning triple for a 66-65 victory. He finished with game-high 25 points.

Some 10 days earlier, in a game played in Ann Arbor, No. 2-ranked Detroit Renaissance opened with a 20-6 lead against No. 5-ranked Fr. Gabriel Richard. Sophomore Charlotte Miller’s buzzer-beating triple capped a thrilling comeback to tie game at 43-43 and send it into overtime. The Irish won 53-52.

University of Detroit Jesuit beat Detroit Martin Luther King 74-59 to win the boys consolation, while Farmington Hills Mercy defeated Cass Tech 65-60 for the girls consolation.

The CHSL boys have won the last seven “Operation Friendship” games that originated in 1947, but lag the Public League overall 40-22. The girls champions have played since 1975. The Public League holds a 24-21 advantage.

Four in a row!

Dylan Gilcher of Novi Detroit Catholic Central at 150 pounds won his fourth consecutive individual state championship over the weekend, joining a list of 34 others — including another Shamrock four-timer, Kevon Davenport (2016-19) — who have accomplished the feat in the last 45 years.

Gilcher, a University of Michigan commit, won as a freshman at 112 pounds, as a sophomore at 135 pounds, and as a junior at 140.

A week ago, Catholic Central won the team state championship, the ninth under coach Mike Hancock, and 16th in school history. Mike Rodriquez coached the first seven.

His 400th win

“It was really special coming back where I played,” said Rex Stanczak about his decision four years ago to coach boys basketball at Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard.

A 1983 all-state guard in high school, he coached for 25 years at South Lyon, Ypsilanti, Walled Lake Western and Ann Arbor Pioneer, giving it up in 2017 with a 361-200 record.

“I was a little burned out. I had a whole bunch of stuff going on,” he said. A couple of years later, “My best friend from high school and my backcourt teammate, Mike Coghlan (head coach at Gabriel Richard), talked me into coming and helping him out.” He took over as head coach for the 2019-20 season.

Coming into this season, Stanczak needed 13 wins to reach 400. It happened on his fourth try, on March 2, a 59-38 victory against Grosse Ile.

“It drives you crazy at times,” he said, “but you need all the different emotions to live a full life. Coaching is all about the relationships with the kids, making sure they graduate, that they have the building blocks for life. I don’t know where else I can do that.

“I’ll take it year by year, enjoying it as long as I love doing it.”

Basketball madness …

Girls high school basketball winds up this week with the crowning of state champions in the MHSAA's four divisions Saturday, March 18, at Michigan State University's Breslin Center.

Of the nine CHSL squads who won their districts last week and moved into the regionals, Mercy appears to have the best chance for further advancing, but it won’t be easy. The Marlins (21-6, ranked No. 6 in Division 1) won their fifth district title in a row by beating 23-0 North Farmington. They play Utica Ford (20-2) Tuesday, March 7, and should they win, will likely bump into No. 2 Detroit Renaissance (20-1).

In boys basketball, Brother Rice has been among the top three contenders for its first Division 1 state crown since 1990. They might have to take care of a pair of Central Division rivals, however. They could meet Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, whom they beat twice during the season, in a district final and the University of Detroit Jesuit, whom they beat three times in fiercely contested battles, in a regional showdown.

Detroit Loyola (21-1) has been atop Division 3's rankings all season. The Bulldogs won their first CHSL championship in 13 years. They won’t face stiff competition until the regionals. Flint Beecher, 2021 state champ, appears to be the most formidable obstacle on the way to the state finals March 25 at MSU.

… and on the ice, too

Catholic Central will be aiming for its fourth state Division 1 championship in a row. The undefeated Shamrocks (25-0) face off against Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (17-12) at 5 p.m. Friday, March 10. The winner will come up against either Hartland (21-7) or Brighton (21-6) at 7 p.m. the next day for the state title.

In Division 2 on Thursday, March 9: It’s U of D Jesuit (14-13) vs. Byron Center (27-1) at 5 p.m.. followed by Brother Rice (19-9) vs. Saginaw Heritage (16-10). The winners meet for the state title at 11 a.m. Saturday.

In Division 3, on Friday, March 10: Riverview Gabriel Richard (19-5) vs. Flint Powers (21-5) at 1:30 p.m. The winner meets either Houghton (26-2) or East Grand Rapids (14-12) for the state championship at 3 p.m. Saturday.

All the contests are played at USA Hockey in Plymouth.

Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].


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