By Nick Braccia
The road to the NCHSAA State Championship was a scary yet exhilarating one. Before the win in the championship on Saturday, the team had never advanced in playoffs beyond the elite eight. This year the Cougars were able to clench home court during the opening rounds of the playoffs.
On Tuesday, March 4th, the Charlotte Catholic Cougars played the Southwest Guilford Cowboys in the elite eight at home. The team advanced to their first final four appearance after a 68-65 win over the Southwest Guilford Cowboys. An important component in the Cougar’s victory over the Cowboys was their accuracy at the foul line. The Cougars made 12-for-13 free throws in the fourth quarter and a total of 22-for-27 compared to the Cowboy’s 23-for-39.
The lead went back and forth the entire game, but with the help of Brian Mack and Jack Larkin, the Cougars pulled forward and win the game. Freshman Brian Mack played a key role in the outcome of the game. He scored nine of his 16 points in the during the fourth quarter, controlling the paint. The Cougars also had success outside the perimeter during the fourth. Senior Jack Larkin scored 10 of his carrier high 21 points from mid-range during this quarter.
On Saturday, March 5th, the Cougars played the North Mecklenburg Vikings at Wake Forest’s Lawrence Joel Coliseum. The Vikings missed their first 10 shots; however, the Cougars were not able to take advantage. The Cougars never lost hope despite being down 19-29 at halftime. Josh Brodowicz said, “all throughout the playoffs and through the season, we’ve been down at the half and down in the second half multiple times, and maybe that’s why we have had such a good season, because we’re a second-half team.”
The Cougars had great success from the perimeter against a strong North Mecklenburg defense. Jack Larkin lead the Cougars to victory with 19 points.
The Cougars advanced to the school’s first ever basketball state championship.
On Saturday, March 12th, the Charlotte Catholic Cougars played the Cary Academy Imps at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill. The Cougars defeated Cary Academy 49-46.
During the state championship game, the Cougars got off to a slow start, shooting a season low 22.9 percent in the first three quarters and went 1-for-13 on 3-point attempts. In the fourth quarter, the team had a major comeback, shooting a season high 72 percent.
The Cougars trailed by 19 points with 4 minutes and 9 seconds left in the third quarter. Charlotte Catholic started the fourth quarter with a strong 6-0 run, forcing three straight steals leading to easy, fast break points. With 8 seconds left and a score of 47-46, in Catholic’s favor, Cary’s Donte Tatum missed two free throws before Charlotte Catholic’s Jimmy Abate made two clutch free throws, increasing the lead to 49-46. After Abate’s free throws, Cary Academy had one last shot to win the game; however, it came up short and the Cougar’s celebrated a record-breaking season. Charlotte Catholic made an impressive run in the fourth quarter, outscoring Cary Academy 23-6.
Coach Mike King said, “It’s quite a feeling to be sitting here, especially after putting up 12 points in the first half.” Josh Brodowicz, who was named MVP, said, ”It’s just special to do it with this group of guys, I wouldn’t give anything in the world to be with these guys and play another season with them. Brodowicz finished the game with 14 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Four months prior to the Cougar’s basketball state championship, the Charlotte Catholic Football team defeated Rose High School 27-20 in the football state championship. Charlotte Catholic High School became the first 4A school in North Carolina to win football and basketball championships in the same school year since Rocky Mount did in 1963.