GROSSE POINTE FARMS — In a rarity for the CYO championship series, the same two schools played for the boys and girls basketball titles, as West Side champion Livonia St. Michael and East Side champ Bloomfield Hills St. Hugo met Saturday evening at St. Paul on the Lake in Grosse Pointe Farms.
St. Michael was victorious in both games.
St. Michael boys win on a buzzer-beater
What goes through the mind of a hero?
Asked what he was thinking about when the opportunity came for the type of ending every kid dreams about, Nate Curtis replied: “Have to get the shot off. Have to get the shot off.”
There was no time for much else. Follow your instinct. Throw the ball up there — and he did, right into the hoop — swish! — just as the buzzer sounded, to give St. Michael a thrilling 38-36 victory over St. Hugo.
“For a 13-year-old, that took a lot of guts,” said his coach, Brad Ebben, amidst the jubilation.
There were only 5.2 seconds left in the game when Nolan Shannon fired in a 3-pointer to put St. Hugo ahead 36-35.
But that was all the time St. Michael needed for an inbound pass and a couple more passes to advance the ball past midcourt, one of them finding Curtis, standing unguarded, outside the arc. It was perfect execution.
The stunned St. Hugo’s squad had trailed most of the game, then caught fire to start the fourth quarter with a 12-4 run to tie game at 31-31 with 3:16 to play.
With 50.6 seconds to play, Tommy Marshall sank a pair of free throws to put St. Michael up 35-33.
Then, nerves took over.
Marshall, who had made six consecutive free throws in the fourth quarter, missed a couple with 18 seconds to play, and his teammate, Patrick Valley, did likewise five seconds later that could have put the game out of St. Hugo’s reach.
Understandably, it took longer than usual for the St. Hugo players to drift out of the locker room. “I told them I was proud of them, that they were great kids, that I loved them,” coach Todd Warner said.
“The ball didn’t bounce our way. One shot doesn’t define what we are.”
Shannon led St. Hugo (20-4) in scoring with 10 points (3 triples). Robert MacMichael had 7, Nico Fandino 6, Brayden Dowd 5, Graham Doman 4, Joe Bruck and Charley Flynn 2 each.
Patrick Valley scored 14 for St. Michael (25-4). Tommy Marshall 9 (7 free throws), Nate Curtis 9, Patrick Henry 5, and Carter Mroz 1.
It was the first championship for coach Ebben in his 10 years at St. Michael.
St. Michael girls’ win streak hits 52
Defense has been the main ingredient for St. Michael’s eighth-grade girls basketball success for the past two years under coach Rhonda Henry. The results are impressive: a second championship in a row, a second year with a 26-0 record.
You don’t have to be a math genius to know that adds up to a 52-game winning streak.
The press was on from start to finish in the Gaels’ 39-26 victory over St. Hugo (15-6) for the girls CYO championship.
“We had too many turnovers,” said St. Hugo coach John Zidar.
Talented seventh-grader Elle Ervin led the way in scoring for St. Hugo with 16 points, while Anise Kruse had 8, and Charlotte Quaine and Annalisa Bortolotti had one point apiece.
Sydney Bourdeon led St. Michael’s offense with 10 points. Kennedy Blair had 9, Hailey Baumann 8, Paige Ebben 7, Lauren Smiley 4, and Lillian DeJong 2.
Blair is the floor leader for St. Michael, exuding confidence and enthusiasm.
“I’ve been playing since I was four years old,” she said. “My dad has coached me, and my grandfather, he played at Western Michigan.”
That she will be heading to Dearborn Divine Child for high school is no surprise. She will be another Blair destined to make headlines for the Falcons. Her sister Morgan was a member of the Falcons' 2011 Class B state champs. She continued on at Hillsdale College, and she’s now pursuing psychology studies at Michigan.
Riley, a 2016 All State graduate of Divine Child, is a junior at Ferris State University and in her third year on the varsity. She’s “just a few points shy of 1,000,” her father said.
Her brother, Quinn (2018), was a four-time All State standout at Divine Child. He holds the school scoring record with 1,553 career points. He was a three-year letter winner in football as a wide receiver, quarterback and linebacker. He’s on the varsity basketball team at William and Mary College.
Another brother, Gannon, is in the early stages of making his mark at Divine Child. He’s a freshman on the JV basketball team.
Their father, John, is a 1986 grad of Riverview Gabriel Richard, and mother, Maureen, a 1986 grad of Farmington Hills Mercy. “It’s great watching them,” John Blair said. “It keeps them out of trouble.”
About the grandfather Kennedy mentioned, that’s Edgar Blair, now 83, a former star at River Rouge Lourdes and at Western Michigan in the mid-1950s. He was drafted by both the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks. He didn’t follow through on either one.
He and his wife, Joyce, will be married 60 years in June.
“We have 14 grandchildren. Twelve of them play sports, and we follow them wherever they play,” Joyce said. On this particular rainy, damp night, the couple traveled to Grosse Pointe from their home in Brownstown Township.
There are more Divine Child connections at St. Michael. Coach Rhonda (nee McAllister) Henry is a 1991 alum and played on the Falcons' 1989 state championship team. She played college ball at Mars Hill University in North Carolina.
Her sister Andrea (McAllister) Gorski (Divine Child 1986) played on the 1986 Class B state champs. She coached for 12 seasons at Livonia Ladywood.
She graduated from Bradley University, where she ranks among the top 10 in four basketball categories and was inducted into the Bradley Athletics Hall of Fame.
She’s in her third year as head coach of women’s basketball at Bradley.