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St. Mary’s hoops wins Catholic League, heads to postseason

By: Zachary Manning | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 6, 2020

 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Kareem Rozier shoots the ball in a game earlier this season. At press time, the Eaglets were 18-1 overall.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Kareem Rozier shoots the ball in a game earlier this season. At press time, the Eaglets were 18-1 overall.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Julian Roper II looks to make a pass. St. Mary’s has its sights set on a state title this season.

Julian Roper II looks to make a pass. St. Mary’s has its sights set on a state title this season.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

ORCHARD LAKE — In recent years, the Catholic High School League boys basketball scene has been dominated by U-D Jesuit.

Entering this season, the Cubs had won the last seven Catholic League regular-season and tournament titles, along with multiple postseason runs.

But Orchard Lake St. Mary’s came into this season with a talented roster and knocked off the likes of Clarkston High and Grand Blanc High during the nonconference portion of the schedule, giving hope that this might be the year Jesuit’s reign would end.

The Eaglets showed why they are rated so highly, finishing with an unblemished record in Catholic League play and moving into the CHSL tournament as the No. 1 overall seed.

St. Mary’s cruised into the championship game, and it was only fitting to have Jesuit waiting on the other side for another opportunity. As they say, to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.

The Eaglets trailed in the second half, with coach Todd Covert saying it was the team’s largest deficit of the season. The Eaglets haven’t had too many deficits this season, so it was a bit of unfamiliar territory.

However, with time ticking down, the Eaglets began to slowly chip away at the lead before eventually breaking through and going on top. St. Mary’s went on to win 61-54 Feb. 29 at Calihan Hall.

Covert said it was the first time since 2008 that the Eaglets won both the regular-season and tournament titles.

“I got a lot of respect for Pat Donnelly and U-D,” Covert said. “They do things the right way, and they compete. They got good kids, sportsmanship. He’s got a great culture over there, and I respect those guys a lot.”

The Eaglets played their last regular-season game afterward and opened postseason play against Pontiac High March 9, after press time. With a win there, St. Mary’s would play at 5 p.m. March 11 against Bloomfield Hills High in a Division 1 district semifinal.

Covert wants his players to take a game-by-game approach, with it being a one-and-done scenario.

“You just got to stay focused on the first game in hand, and that’s going to be Pontiac, and if we’re lucky enough to win that, we’ll play Bloomfield Hills, who’s really well coached,” Covert said. “You got (Waterford Mott), (Auburn Hills Avondale) and the home team West Bloomfield on the other side, so it’s a tough district.”

Even with that one-game approach, St. Mary’s ultimate goal is to win the state championship.

The program’s last title came back in 2000 under George Porritt, who is the school’s football coach and athletic director.

At press time, the Eaglets were 18-1 overall and had won 10 straight games.

“We don’t talk about it a lot,” Covert said of winning the state title. “We just try to control what we can control and really stay focused on the defensive end, because that will get us to where we need to get to.”