ROYAL OAK — There was too much at stake for Regan Smith or Allison LaPoint to have an off night.
The two seniors have been in Royal Oak Shrine’s starting lineup for four seasons and were playing their last home game Friday evening. If that weren’t enough, Shrine was facing arch-rival Madison Heights Bishop Foley and a district championship was on the line.
The Lady Knights’ seniors delivered, as Smith had a game-high 19 points and LaPoint added 15, propelling Shrine to a 60-43 victory before a large, boisterous crowd.
“I just knew that it was against Foley, it’s our last home game ever, so I knew we just all had to bring it,” Smith said. “Everyone was on their game, everyone was intense. The bench was awesome; our mentality was just like, ‘Go hard’ the entire time, all four quarters.”
“We’d like to think that we poured our whole heart into the game tonight, and we’ve worked our whole season for it — this is our goal. The state tournament is our goal,” LaPoint added.
While Smith worked the perimeter, LaPoint was effective down low, and the duo made key plays at the right times. Midway through the second quarter, Smith converted a rare four-point play, banking in a long-range triple while being knocked to the ground. She sank the ensuing free throw, opening Shrine’s lead to 22-11. LaPoint ignited a third-quarter hot streak, scoring the first basket on a 20-8 run that extended the Lady Knights’ lead to 20 points, 53-33.
It was the third straight year that Shrine (16-6) has won the district title, advancing to regional play which begins Tuesday. Coach Lindsay Noble agreed that her experienced team came ready to play against Foley.
“Knowing no matter what happened, being their last game here, there was just a sense of ‘We got this, we’re going to take it to ‘em,’ and they came out and proved that,” she said. “It was so much fun to watch and they earned it through hard work.”
Really, just the rivalry between the two Catholic schools, located about four miles apart, is enough to spark anyone to bring their A-game.
“It’s unlike anything else,” Smith said. “I mean, I don’t think anyone outright hates a person, but it’s just the athletics. It’s just more excitement than anything to beat them. It’s just head-to-head competition; no one wants to lose to the other one.”
Ray Joseph’s Ventures (17-5) were enjoying a fine season as well. Despite year-ending injuries to several seniors, the team infused young talent into the lineup, and won the Catholic League’s Intersectional 1 title during the regular season. So Shrine didn’t take its task lightly.
“They have very good three-point shooters, and one of our goals was we wanted to cut that down,” Smith said of the Ventures. “They have the two big Moore sisters (Melanie and Kayla); we don’t have that big size in the middle but we have that strength, so we wanted to really just limit their points and what the three-point shooters can do.”
“They’re physical,” LaPoint said. “We really had to make sure that we were getting rebounds so they weren’t getting second chances, and they’ve got some three-point shooters, we really had to work to shut them down on the outside. The lob, too — they’ve got a dangerous lob down low.”
Next, Shrine faces Dearborn Advanced Tech Academy in the regional semifinal, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, in a game to be played in Bishop Foley’s gym. Tuesday’s victor will take on the winner of the other semifinal between Grosse Pointe Woods University-Liggett and Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest (5:30 Tuesday) for the regional crown two nights later. Liggett (14-5) advanced with a last-minute, 49-47 victory over Detroit Pershing.
“You definitely don’t underestimate anybody,” LaPoint said. “You win, you move on; you lose, you go home. We want to keep going as long as possible, we want to get to that state final, and we want to win. No underestimating.”
Shrine and Liggett are only two of nine Catholic High School League teams that won their districts on Friday night. Here’s a capsule look at the other regional qualifiers and their Tuesday match-ups:
Birmingham Marian (18-5)
District final: 50-39 over Royal Oak
Next: vs. Grosse Pointe North, 4:30 p.m. at Southfield Arts & Technology
Farmington Hills Mercy (20-3)
District final: 66-40 over North Farmington
Next: vs. Detroit Renaissance, 6 p.m. at Southfield Arts & Technology
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook (11-10)
District final: 32-26 over Pontiac Notre Dame Prep
Next: vs. Imlay City, 7 p.m. at Goodrich
Dearborn Divine Child (14-9)
District final: 58-50 over Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard
Next: vs. Detroit Edison, 5:30 p.m. at Carleton Airport
Wixom St. Catherine (15-7)
District final: 53-13 over Redford Union
Next: vs. Warren Lincoln, 7 p.m. at Livonia Clarenceville
Marine City Cardinal Mooney (8-12)
District final: 26-23 over Sterling Hts. Parkway Christian
Next: vs. Genesee Christian, 7 p.m. at Parkway Christian
Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (15-7)
District final: 55-52 over Auburn Hills Oakland Christian
Next: vs. Deckerville, 5:30 p.m. at Parkway Christian