When four-time defending Catholic League champion University of Detroit-Jesuit trailed Warren De La Salle by 10 points late in the third quarter, Elijah Collins said the Cubs needed a quick fix.
“I knew we needed some firepower,” the junior guard said. “I came out hot, hitting some shots and doing everything I could do on defense, getting steals and trying to spark our team. It was our energy. We came out kind of slow in the third quarter, so we had to turn the switch on and fix it.”
Collins scored nine of his game-high 18 points over the next three minutes when the Cubs reclaimed the lead and went on to ground the Pilots, 63-56, in the A/B Division championship at Detroit Mercy’s Calihan Hall today.
“Don’t get me wrong, when we’re down 10 with 10 minutes left in the game, that’s a little bit concerning,” Cubs coach Pat Donnelly said. “I’m proud of our guys the way they didn’t give up, the way they came back.”
Collins picked up a loose ball at the top of the key and drained a three-pointer as the third-quarter buzzer sounded. It pulled UDJ (15-3) within four points and seemed to spark the Cubs, who outscored De La Salle, 21-10, in the fourth.
After falling behind, 10-1, in the first three minutes of the game, De La Salle clawed back and held the Cubs scoreless over the next five minutes. The Pilots took their first lead, 11-10, early in the second quarter, and led, 27-26, at the half. Points on six straight possessions midway through the third put De La Salle in control, or so it seemed.
“Our kids were really excited when we were up by 10, and I told them you didn’t win the Super Bowl. This team has won the state championship and they’ve won four Catholic Leagues in a row, they weren’t going to quit,” Pilots coach Greg Esler said.
De La Salle got 14 points from Jordan Winowiecki, 14 from Ryan Anderson and 13 from Luke Pfromm. Esler said the game was a learning experience for his team.
“We lose now, it stings, but we had a great opportunity to win and didn’t take advantage of it,” he said. “We’ll be ready to go (next year) and make sure they don’t win six.”
The Cubs played without starting forward Ike Eke, whose mother, Margaret, was hit by a speeding motorist and killed in Nigeria on Saturday.
“I told them yesterday and they’re all heartbroken for Ike,” Donnelly said. “They’re just happy to have this over with and come out with a win. Now they can relax a little bit and get in touch with Ike and tell him we got one for him.”
Macomb Lutheran North 70, Riverview Richard 62: Drew Arft had visited Calihan Hall to pick up individual awards before, but that wasn’t the same as being able to win a Catholic League title on Dick Vitale Court.
“It was amazing out there,” the Lutheran North guard said. “I love this whole gym here, and I said I would love to play here and finally got to do it. We got the win too, so that’s even more special.”
The Siena Heights-bound guard scored a game-high 24 points, draining all 10 of his free-throw attempts, and the Mustangs won their first Catholic League C/D Division crown, 70-62 over Gabriel Richard on a stage that was bigger than what Arft was accustomed to.
“I just wanted to stay as calm as possible out there and treat it as another game, because at the end of the day it’s just that — another big game. But I’ve played in a lot of big games throughout my career,” he said.
This was the first year that the Catholic League opened its playoffs to affiliate members, so while pairing “Catholic League Champions” with “Lutheran North” has an unfamiliar ring to it, coach Jeff DeMasse said it was a big accomplishment for a special group.
“It was one of our goals from the beginning of the year, because we knew we had the opportunity to play in it for the first time,” he said. “They’re just playing hard, playing together and really cooking right now. We practiced normal as usual, and I just told the kids to take it all in, because it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”