FOWLERVILLE – Mitchell Burnett and the Lansing Catholic boys basketball team were seeking revenge on Fowlerville going into the Class B district semifinals.
Not for anything the Gladiators did this year, as the No. 3-ranked Cougars swept the series between the two CAAC White rivals. But because Fowlerville was the reason Lansing Catholic didn’t even get a crack at a district championship last season.
Burnett and the Cougars got what they were looking for Wednesday night as they picked up a 70-44 victory over the Gladiators and advance to face No. 10-ranked Williamston in Friday’s district championship game.
“We wanted to beat them – really bad,” said Burnett, whose team lost to Fowlerville in its district opener last season. “We (were) really focused.”
For a moment Wednesday, it looked as if a repeat was on the horizon. The Cougars (19-1) held a seven-point lead over the Gladiators (12-9) midway through the second quarter, but a pair of free throws from Fowlerville’s Connor Matlock, who scored a team-high 15 points, ignited a quick 9-0 run. The Gladiators held a 32-30 lead over Catholic with just minutes remaining in the first half, but that’s when the Cougars turned it up.
A Burnett 3-pointer triggered an 8-0 run and allowed Lansing Catholic to take a 38-32 lead into the half. And in the final 16 minutes, the Cougars held their conference foe to just three field goals, while outscoring them 32-12.
“In the second half, we just started to miss some shots that we typically make,” Matlock said. “Them not having (Tony) Poljan in there at the end of the first half, we were able to get some runs going.
“We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket. That was the main thing. “
Burnett and Poljan each scored 13 points for Lansing Catholic. Poljan, who is committed to play football at Central Michigan next year, broke the school’s 60-year scoring record and became the all-time leading scorer with 1,310 career points.
The victory is the Cougars’ 10th straight, and first-year varsity coach Eric Trojanowicz credits his team’s camaraderie for its success this season.
“They’ve played together for so long,” he said. “I’ve had these seniors (for) freshman and junior varsity, and we lost four games in two years.
“Having me as a coach, I think they understand my expectations. It’s been an easy transition for them. They don’t think because they make a mistake that they’re going to come out of the game. …I have everyone out there playing hard, and it pays off.”
Lansing Catholic senior Owen Rush added 10 points. Fowlerville senior Sam McDowell scored eight.
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.