No. 1 St. Mary’s and No. 1 Fr. Gabriel Richard win Bishop Division titles

St. Mary’s Prep outlasted Brother Rice, 58-55, for the CHSL boys Bishop Division championship. It was the Eaglets third league title in the last five years. (Photo by Don Horkey | Special to Detroit Catholic)

DETROIT — The Catholic High School League’s premiere No. 1 teams maintained their lofty positions last Saturday evening on the Dick Vitale Court at the University of Detroit Mercy’s Calihan Hall.

In the opener of the Bishop Division doubleheader, Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard — 21-0 and No. 1 in statewide Division 2 — fought off upset-minded Toledo Central Catholic, 61-47, to win its second girls crown in a row.

In the nightcap, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s — 19-1 and No. 1 in Division 1 in the state — prevailed in its severest test of the season, 58-55, over Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice for its third boys trophy in the past five years.

A frantic homestretch

Methodically, as St Mary’s had done in winning 19- and 18-point victories earlier against Brother Rice, the Eaglets built a 30-17 cushion with about three minutes before halftime, energized by Trey McKenney’s 11 points and 8 from guard Sharrod Barnes and forward Jayden Savoury patrolling the boards.

All seemed well, except it wasn’t, at least for the Warriors until, seemingly out of nowhere, Luke Salkowski scored twice, Logan Hamama hit a triple, and Warren Marshall converted a pair of free throws and the Eaglets’ discomfort level sank to a critical four points, 30-26.

St. Mary’s rebuilt its advantage to 36-29 only to see it disappear in the heat of a whirlwind 7-point run by Rice’s Elijah Williams. The game was tied once more at 41-41.

In the frantic moments down the homestretch, both teams employed an air attack.

Eaglets guard Isaiah Hines canned a pair of triples that was offset by a similar set of long-range missiles by Rice forward Luke Salkowski.

Triples by Elijah Williams and David Williams made it a 57-55 game with 8.6 seconds to play. St. Mary’s Barnes was fouled at 6.7 seconds.

The Eaglets, to that moment, had scored their last six points from the free throw line.

Barnes missed his first effort. He made the second one and then intercepted Rice’s subsequent inbound pass for the victory. It was his third steal of the game and seventh for the team.

For St. Mary’s, McKenney — in spite of an uncharacteristic 8 for 21 (38%) shooting average — had a game high 21 points. Barnes had 15 and Hines 10.

Elijah Williams (16), Salkowski (12) and David Williams (10) led Brother Rice’s offense.

Just following the coach’s orders

In a similar vein, but perhaps not quite as intense, Fr. Gabriel Richard, too, didn’t secure its victory until the last eight minutes of the game, leading by six points.

Fr. Gabriel Richard successfully defended its girls Bishop Division championship by beating Toledo Central Catholic, 61-47.
Fr. Gabriel Richard successfully defended its girls Bishop Division championship by beating Toledo Central Catholic, 61-47.

All-State sophomore point guard Vanessa Rodriguez took her coach’s admonition to heart. “My coach (Tim Cain) told me to keep going and getting the ball.”

She fired four triples in the fourth quarter and combined with Richard’s defense that held Toledo Central Catholic scoreless in the game’s last three minutes proved to be the winning formula.

Vanessa had a spectacular game, scoring 29 points on 15 for 25 (5 for 5 threes) for 60 percent shooting along with six rebounds and three steals. Her twin sister, Ava, had 11 points (2 for 2 threes). Charlotte Miller and Cora Williams each chipped in 10 points.

Central Catholic was led by 17 points each from Brooklyn Vaughn and Corniya Clay and 10 by Sophia Farrugia.

Operation Friendship next on schedule

While their schoolmates are on a weeklong mid-winter break, players on teams like St. Mary’s and Gabriel Richard have no such luxury.

“We’re beat up,” Eaglets coach Todd Covert said. “We had 16 tough games (in the Central Division), then against East Lansing and other rated teams. The wear and tear, you’re taking a beating. We’re down to practicing maybe an hour a day. Then we have to face (No. 2 rated) Cass Tech (18-1).”

That’ll be at 5 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, at University of Detroit Mercy's Calihan Hall in the annual Operation Friendship game between the Catholic League and Detroit Public School champions.

The respective league runners-up play, too, at 3 p.m., also at Calihan Hall: Brother Rice (14-6) versus Detroit Renaissance (15-5).

There’s Operation Friendship for girls, too, Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard will play Renaissance (17-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22, at Renaissance. The Fighting Irish beat Renaissance last year, 53-52 in overtime.

Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].


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