Orchard Lake St. Mary coach George Porritt put it bluntly when he said of junior guard Jalon Bailey: “He’s our sixth man and he’s got to provide points off the bench for us.”
Bailey fulfilled that role about as well as possible in Wednesday’s Catholic League tournament semifinals win over Birmingham Brother Rice, 46-43.
Bailey scored six points in the first half to help give the Eaglets a slim 26-22 lead at the break, but then came off the bench early in the third quarter to pour in eight points in less than a minute to push St. Mary’s to an 11-point advantage. And the Eaglets needed every one of those points as Rice battled back to within one in the final minute, before LaMon Mathison Jr. made two free throws with 18 seconds remaining for the final margin.
“We were doing a good job of attacking and kicking (the ball out) and being aggressive, then all of a sudden we weren’t, then (Rice) went down and cashed in,” Porritt said of the scoring dry spell late in the third quarter after Bailey’s spurt.
“We just need to battle to win,” Porritt added. “We’re nothing fancy, we have to play defense, we have to make shots, and we have to scrap. We’re not a big team, but they’re doing a nice job right now, of scrapping as a whole team, and I’m very proud of that effort.”
Porritt had high praise for Bailey and senior guard Jason Boswell, who led St. Mary’s (10-8) with 18 points, including a run of 11 points in the middle of the second quarter that reversed a Rice lead.
“This win means a lot,” Boswell said. “Coach has been stressing on us defense, each and every practice, so I think we played tough on defense and contained the three. It was all about playing hard. We really wanted to get back to Calihan, after last year, a tough loss. Same opponent, so we’re ready to get back there and ready to get a win.”
Boswell was speaking of the finals rematch with U-D Jesuit, which beat St. Mary’s in the Division A-B finals last season.
Rice (12-6) was led all night by dominating senior forward Kevin Hayes, who poured in 12 points in the first half and was all over the boards. He finished with 21 points, including a running shot he kissed high off the glass to cut the margin to 44-43 late in the game.
“I thought (Jacob) Bauss, our big man, played real well today,” Porritt said. “He did a nice job in the second half against (Kevin) Hayes. Hayes took it to us in the first half and I thought Jake did a nice job in that second half keeping him off the glass and keeping him away from the basket a little bit.”
Just enough for a second straight trip to the finals at Calihan Hall.
Division C-D: Royal Oak Shrine rode a late season surge to blow past Riverview Richard, 53-29, in the other semifinal played Wednesday at Birmingham Marian. Shrine came in with a 7-8 record Riverview fell to 12-6.
After a nearly-even first quarter in which Richard led, 12-11, Shrine went on runs of 12-4 in the second, 12-6 in the third and 18-7 in the fourth quarter to earn its first trip to the league finals at Calihan Hall in nine years.
“We picked up our defensive intensity,” said Shrine coach Jim Skaggs about pulling away. “We’re a good defensive team and we’ve been coming on (late this season) and were able to get to some of their passes and turn them into layups.
We’ve been playing better the last few weeks and I think the competition we’ve played has helped us. We’ve played better and set the goal to get to the finals. We haven’t been there in a while so we’re happy to now, and looking forward to playing (Waterford Our Lady of the) Lakes.”
Shrine’s leading scorers were Tom Peaslee (14 points), Asher Smith (12) and Mike Niehaus (11).