Is the end of a basketball drought in sight at Brother Rice?

A children’s choir from St. Regis School next door to Brother Rice High School sang the national anthem before the game between Brother Rice and University of Detroit Jesuit last Friday. A capacity crowd of more than 900 spectators packed the gym to its rafters for the fourth time this season, all with games against Rice’s Central Division opponents. “We closed the doors before 7 o’clock,” said athletic director Jeff Calcaterra. (Photo by Don Horkey | Special to Detroit Catholic)

BLOOMFIELD HILLS The Catholic League will wrap up its boys and girls basketball season in the next couple of weeks. You are hereby forewarned there’ll be plenty of drama, more so than has already been chronicled.

The spotlight will fall on the girls first, since their season will officially conclude Saturday, Feb. 18, with champions crowned at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at University of Detroit Mercy’s Calihan Hall.

One of the finalists for the Cardinal Trophy involving teams from the AA and Intersectional divisions will be decided Tuesday, Feb. 14, at Warren Regina. At 5:30 p.m., Wixom St. Catherine (16-1, 8-0 AA) will face Clarkston Everest Collegiate (11-4, 5-3 Intersection I).

St. Catherine, which is on a 14-game winning streak, will be seeking to make the CHSL finals for the fifth year in a row and win the crown as it did in 2021.

The other finalist will come from the match tipping off at 7 p.m. between defending champion Madison Heights Bishop Foley (14-3, 7-1 Intersection I) and Macomb Lutheran North (13-3. 5-3 AA).

Who advances for the finals for the Bishop Trophy (Central Division) will be determined Wednesday, Feb. 15, at Novi Detroit Catholic Central.

At 6 p.m., Farmington Hills Mercy (16-2, 7-1) will play Warren Regina (6-10, 2-6) followed at 7:30 p.m. by Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard (15-2, 7-1) versus Dearborn Divine Child (13-5, 3-5).

If Mercy and Fr. Gabriel Richard prevail, the finale would be their third meeting of the year.

Mercy won 46-33 on Jan. 6, and Fr. Gabriel Richard won a low-scoring rematch, 33-26, three weeks later.

Divine Child could spoil this speculation by upsetting the Fighting Irish. The Falcons lost twice to Fr. Gabriel Richard by a total of seven points.

Is basketball drought over at Brother Rice?

There was a time in Brother Rice sports history when football was all the talk: nine state championships and four runners-up under coach Al Fracassa between 1977 and 2013.

And there are the state titles in sports that don’t get the big headlines: 11 in swimming, eight in golf, six in hockey, eight in tennis.

Since 2005, the Warriors have wielded unheard-of domination in lacrosse: 15 state titles in 16 years — nine in a row under Rob Ambrose between 2005 and 2013, and the beat carried on by coach Ajay Chawla, six of the last seven years from 2014 to today.

Basketball has had its moments, but they happened nearly a half century ago. Coach Bill Norton, Rice’s winningest basketball coach with 323 victories in 21 years (1965-81, 1996-99), directed the Warriors to two Class A state finals: an overtime 62-56 defeat of Detroit Cass Tech in 1974, and another OT thriller in 1977, a loss to “Magic” Johnson and Lansing Everett.

Brother Rice has won five CHSL championships, the last in 1990. Its last appearance occurred in Norton’s last year on the sideline, in 1999, a loss to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Prep.

There are signs the basketball drought may be easing. Last Friday before a raucous full house, the Warriors (16-1, 7-1 league; ranked No. 2 state-wide) defeated University of Detroit Jesuit, 73-61, to claim its first Central Division title since 1996.

Brother Rice set the game’s tempo from start to finish with a tenacious man-to-man defense, control of the boards on both ends of the court, and a sure-fire offense led by senior Xavier Thomas (Toledo commit) with 20 points, senior Johnathan Blackwell (Wisconsin) 19, junior Warren Marshall 15, and senior Curtis Williams (Louisville) 12.

“They’re just more talented than anybody else in the state,” said U of D Jesuit coach Pat Donnelly, who has won a state title in 2016 and eight CHSL championships in 16 years. “There’s nobody that matches up with them in terms of talent, player for player.”

“We’re really playing a good brand of basketball right now. I’m pretty happy,” said Warriors coach Rick Palmer, who is in his fifth season at Rice. “We have a lot more to do, but we’re going to celebrate this one.”

To reach the promised land of the Bishop (Central Division) Championship, the route starts with semi-final contests: Brother Rice will play Novi Detroit Catholic Central (8-9, 2-6) at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 20. U of D Jesuit (13-3, 5-3) will face Warren De La Salle (10-7, 4-4) at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21. The winners will advance to the championship game at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24, at the University of Detroit Mercy's Calihan Hall.

The Cardinal Championship for the Double A and Intersectional divisions start off with quarterfinal contests on Saturday, Feb. 18, at U of D Jesuit High. Here’s the lineup:

  • Game 1 at 3 p.m., the defending champion for the past three years Riverview Gabriel Richard (12-3, 8-2 AA) vs. either Clarkston Everest Collegiate (6-8. 3-6 Inter I) or Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (9-5, 7-0 Inter II).
  • Game 2 at 4:30 p.m., Macomb Lutheran North (15-1, 8-0 Inter I) vs. Dearborn Divine Child (8-7, 6-3 AA). The winners of these games will play a semifinal game at 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20, at Brother Rice.
  • Game 3 at 6 p.m., Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard (10-4, 6-3 AA) vs. Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (10-4, 5-5 Inter I).
  • Game 4 at 7:30 p.m., Detroit Loyola (15-1, 8-0 Inter I) vs. Macomb Bishop Foley (8-7, 5-4 AA). The winners advance to the semifinal at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, at Brother Rice.

The Cardinal Championship game will be played at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, at U of D Mercy Calihan Hall.

Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].


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