After a rough regular season and a second-place finish in the Detroit Catholic League Central Division, it was hard to predict how Orchard Lake St. Mary’s would fare in the state tournament.
But the Eaglets are now three wins away from winning their fourth state championship.
St. Mary’s (15-9) claimed its first regional championship since 2008 with a 49-48 victory over Catholic League rival Novi Detroit Catholic Central in a Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) Class A regional final at Ann Arbor Pioneer on Wednesday, March 16.
“The kids work hard and I’m very proud of them. I feel we can play with anyone,” said St. Mary’s Head Coach George Porritt. “We play in a rugged league, but once we started at zero and zero we gained some confidence.”
St. Mary’s took on Bay City Western (23-2) in an MHSAA Class A state quarter-final at Davison yesterday, Tuesday, March 22 after press time.
The winner will face either Detroit Southeastern or Romulus in a Class A state semi-final at the Breslin Center in East Lansing on Friday, March 25.
The Class A final is scheduled for Saturday, March 26.
Shaun Covington scored only one point in the regional final, but it was the most important one. After he was fouled when there were 12 seconds left in regulation, he scored on the second of two free throws after missing his first.
Allen Robinson stepped up when he was needed the most for St. Mary’s, as he finished with 34 points on the night, while Sam McClendon had 11.
The Eaglets led 16-10 after the first quarter before the Shamrocks responded with a 10-3 run in the second quarter to take a 20-19 halftime lead.
Catholic Central then built up its lead to 35-26 at the end of the third quarter and appeared to have the Eaglets on the ropes.
But St. Mary’s responded with pressure defense by Covington and McClendon, while Robinson scored 20 points in the fourth quarter to help lead the comeback.
“McClendon and Covington did a great job,” Porritt said.
Kyle Cooper finished with 20 points for Catholic Central (16-9).
Two days earlier, St. Mary’s defeated Hartland, 61-42, in a Class A regional semi-final on Monday, March 14.
“We got in runs against Hartland with pressure defense. That was the difference,” Porritt said.
As a result, the Eaglets held the Eagles’ star player, Matt Poches, to only 16 points after he scored 23 points against Walled Lake Northern and 25 points against Walled Lake Central in the district round of the tournament.
Robinson led St. Mary’s with 32 points, while McClendon had 12.
Now, Porritt has his team believing it can reach the state’s Final Four.
“We’re healthy and the kids seem to be focused in practice,” Porritt said.