It’s crunch time in the Catholic High School League’s basketball wars.
Unless, you’re wearing the colors of Detroit U-D Jesuit and Bloomfield Hills Marian.
Both are in the upper stratosphere of state-ranked teams: U-D No. 1 in Division 1 boys, Marian No. 5 in Division 1 girls.
Both have secured their respective Central Division titles with a week left to play for the boys and two weeks for the girls. They won’t have to deal that much with what the rest of the league’s mere mortals will be undergoing: the hectic, weeklong CHSL playoffs starting Feb. 9 for the boys and Feb. 16 for the girls.
At stake will be the A-B Division and C-D Division championships to be determined Feb. 16 for the boys and Feb. 23 for the girls, both staged at the University of Detroit Mercy’s Calihan Hall.
Nerves are their most raw in the boys Inter-Section I Division. Three teams are vying for the division crown and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
“We’re excited,” says Steve Graf, athletic director at Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, the defending C-D champion.
The Cranes started the season with a sizzling 9-1 record, only to fall into a funk losing the next three games by a total of five points, two on buzzer-beater baskets.
Their last victory had come three weeks earlier over Madison Heights Bishop Foley, their opponent last Friday. Here was a chance to get back in the win column.
Coach Shane Finney urged his team to “Push!” at every timeout. Pressing relentlessly from start to finish, Kingswood scored the first six points in the game, led 30-14 at the half, and won going away 46-24 to raise their overall record to 10-4, 5-3 in the league.
The Ventures (4-8, 3-5) simply could not keep up with the frenetic pace, committing several turnovers and shooting, perhaps, their worst of the season. Center Mike Maten could only score six points and top scorer, Steve Siepker, was limited to four.
Guards Torrell Williams (12 points) and Cameron Garner (9) scored 21 points between them while directing the offense. Jordan Benson grabbed a basket full of rebounds, and Danny Files – listed at 6-feet-4 and 305 pounds – plugged the middle.
“We stopped doing the little things,” said Finney about the losing streak. “We have to get back to the basics.”
Their next two games will be against their chief rivals, Jan. 29 at Ann Arbor Greenhills (12-1, 6-1) and Royal Oak Shrine (10-4, 7-1) Feb. 2 at home.
Shrine had won its first seven league games before bumping up against Greenhills, hoping to erase the memory of a last-second loss earlier to the Knights.
Much in Cranbrook’s run-and-gun style, the Gryphons effectively sealed the deal in the opening eight minutes with a 12-0 run to take a 20-9 lead. They won 65-51. Shrine got no closer than four points the rest of the way.
Shrine can take the division title by winning one of their two remaining games, Jan. 29 against Bishop Foley and Feb. 2 against Greenhills.
Here’s a division-by-division overview:
The only way to prevent U-D Jesuit (12-2, 6-0) from winning its seventh straight CHSL A-B championship is by not letting them out of the locker room. Seriously, Novi Detroit Catholic Central has the best chance to make it to the playoff finale at Calihan Hall and face the Cubs for a third time. The Shamrocks lost by a point to U-D when it was without two starters, and then by a dozen points when coach Pat Donnelly had all hands on deck.
Over the weekend, U-D Jesuit slipped past Flint Beecher (No. 1, Division 3), 70-69.
Detroit Loyola (9-4, 4-0) and Dearborn Divine Child (11-3, 3-1) will decide who wins this division when they clash Feb. 1 on the Falcons’ floor. Loyola topped Divine Child 64-58 in overtime a month ago.
BOYS INTER-SECTION II
Riverview Gabriel Richard (11-2, 9-1) has handily won this title. Marine City Cardinal Mooney (7-5, 5-3), Detroit Cristo Rey (6-9, 5-5) and Clarkston Everest (5-6, 3-5) are on the bubble to make the playoffs.
On the girls’ side of the ledger, here’s what it looks like now:
Marian – the only undefeated team in the CHSL with an overall 11-0 record, 6-0 league – is favored to defend its CHSL A-B championship. Their strongest opponent could be their archrival, Farmington Hills Mercy (8-3, 4-2), who has lost twice to coach Mary Cicerone’s crew.
Shrine (7-3, 4-0) – the reigning CHSL C-D champion – leads Wixom St. Catherine (9-2, 3-1) by beating the Stars 45-35 a month ago. The two meet Jan. 29 to settle the division title.
Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (7-4, 4-0) and Madison Heights Bishop Foley (7-3. 4-1) have a date Feb. 4 to decide this division. The Lakers won a meeting two weeks earlier, 49-36.
This might be the playoff’s sentimental choice. Chesterfield Austin is 4-0 right now with two games to play. Winning both would qualify them, a remarkable achievement for this 8-person squad from an 84- school enrollment.
CHSL CHAMPIONSHIPS ON TAP
- Friday, Feb. 1, wrestling at Novi Detroit Catholic Central. The Shamrocks have won the event 24 years in a row.
- Monday, Feb. 4, boys and girls skiing at Mt. Brighton. Cranbrook Kingswood is defending champ for both boys and girls.
Contact Don Horkey at email@example.com.