Brother Rice not just a football power this season
Birmingham – Recently Birmingham Brother Rice hasn’t been much of a factor in the Catholic League Central Division.
In 2010 the Warriors tied for the regular season title and went on to win what would be the first of two consecutive Class A district titles.
The last three seasons Brother Rice took a dip but this season is different. Coach Ed Schafer said before the season he expected his team to be more competitive and scheduled a couple of tough games (East Kentwood and Lansing Eastern) during the holiday break to help prepare his team for this time of the season.
After back-to-back victories over Warren De La Salle and U-D Jesuit, Brother Rice (11-4, 5-3) is relevant. The Warriors finished second to U-D during the regular season and will open the league playoffs against Pontiac Notre Dame Prep on Saturday at Birmingham Marian at 5:30 p.m.
“We were 2-2 at the midway point (in the division),” Schafer said. “And we had too many turnovers. We lost to De La Salle and U-D, and we knew we had to take care of the ball better. And we did that on Tuesday (a 58-53 victory at home against U-D).
“We were ready that night. We played together on both ends. Offensively, we started to trust one another. Their offense is predicated on steals, fast breaks and dunks. We did a good job of not turning it over.”
U-D (14-2) is the defending league champions and one of the top teams in the state. The Cubs jumped out to a 19-4 lead and Brother Rice answered with a 19-4 run before Cassius Winston made a basket just before halftime to give U-D a 25-23 lead.
The game remained close throughout the second half.
Brother Rice has seven seniors that played significant minutes last season. Kevin Hayes, a 6-6 forward, is the team’s best player and is being recruited by a number of Division II schools at this time.
“He’s a young senior,” Schafer said. “He’s 17 and he could be still growing. He never played basketball before the eighth grade. He’s long and athletic. He was a class hurdler in junior high but he hasn’t run track in high school. I’m trying to convince him to come out this spring.
“He’s a gym rat. He’s just now starting to show what he can do.”
Another top player is Dominic Downs. A 5-10 guard, Downs was moved to the point this season. Schafer said Downs was “a super scorer” in junior high but has gradually become more of a distributor.
Looking ahead, Brother Rice will compete in the district at North Farmington, which begins March 9, and it’s likely Brother Rice and North Farmington will play in the final on March 13.
Under the radar
A number of transfers, notably Josh McFolley and Gerald Blackshear at Detroit Western, received much publicity when they became eligible at the semester break.
One such player, Claude Finley at Warren Mott, was not much more than an afterthought.
Finley, a 6-4 senior who transferred from Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy, has given Mott (6-8, 4-4 Macomb Area Conference Red Division) a significant boost recently. Mott has won its last two games and Finley has scored 30 and 31 points, respectively, in those games.
“We were struggling for a while,” Mott coach Jeff Olind said. “The last three games we’ve played much better.
“Finley has long arms. A lot of his points come off of his defensive play.
“In the beginning of the season we were bad defensively. We want to pick up full court and we weren’t doing that very well. Now we are.”
Finley will play his seventh game for Mott on Tuesday when the Marauders face Macomb L’Anse Creuse North.
Senior Derek Murphy (6-5), Mott’s best returning player from a team that reached the Class A quarterfinals, missed the last two games due to an illness. Murphy might return on Tuesday.