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BOYS BASKETBALL: OLSM honors 100 years of hoop history, welcomes back Butcher

By: Scott Burnstein, December 22, 2013, 8:00 am

ORCHARD LAKE – The rich and championship-layered tradition on the hardwood at Orchard Lake St. Marys was honored over the weekend.

St. Mary’s celebrated its 100-year anniversary as a basketball team, with a home contest against a familiar foe on the opposing bench and a slate of pre and post-game festivities that tipped a hat to the team’s glorious and historic past.

The Eaglets played their first game on December 19, 1913 (beating Pontiac 18-8) and since then have ascended to epic heights, becoming the state’s second all-time leader in wins (1,296 victories) and a genuine Metro Detroit "glamour program."

In its century of causing hoop havoc, St. Mary’s has won four state championships (1933, 1978, 1982, 2000), advanced into 11 final fours and has tallied 18 regional titles and 42 district banners.

On Friday, the Eaglets (1-1) trounced Hartland 73-41 in front of a rocking Dombrowksi Field House crowd peppered with alumni and a feverish fan section.

Hartland is coached by Denny Butcher, who was on the sidelines at St. Mary’s between 1992 and 1998, leading the Eaglets on a trip into the 1994 Class C state championship game.

“The St. Mary’s program is the model, it’s where almost every other team in the state wants to be and I obviously know that first-hand from having the tremendous opportunity of coaching here,” said Butcher following Friday’s emotional affair, where he was awarded a plaque in recognition of his outstanding service on the bench with the Eaglets prior to the game.

Showing its appreciation, the Eaglets’ grandstand gave Butcher a standing ovation.

“The people and the kids at St. Mary’ are top-rate all the way, high-character people, the kind you admire,” he said in response to the gesture. “I was really overwhelmed.”

While coaching the Eaglets, Butcher mentored several all-state performers that went on to have successful athletic careers after high school.

The best of the bunch were Kylo Jones (’97), Diallo Johnson (’95) and David Bowens (’95).

Jones, a tenaciously tough point guard, ranks second on the Eaglet’s all-time scoring list and went on to play in college at Western Michigan University.

Johnson was a swingman that did a little bit of everything and was the leading-scorer on the 1994 team that came within seconds of winning a state title and went on to play football in the Big Ten at the University Michigan.  He was an all-state quarterback on the high school gridiron, spurring St. Mary’s to a state championship as a senior, however played wide receiver in college, catching passes from future NFL field generals Tom Brady and Brian Griese.

Bowens recently retired from a lengthy career in the NFL as a defensive lineman.

Back in his prep hoopster days, Bowens was a beast on the blocks sporting a fearsome reputation for attacking the rim like it had stole something from him.

Current St. Mary’s head coach George Porritt assumed the reins from Butcher, when he departed for the job at Ortonville Brandon. After his time at Brandon, Butcher spent eight years at Walled Lake Central before leaving for Hartland last season.

Porritt is a legend in his own right, the school’s athletic director and a coach that has led the Eaglets to state titles on the basketball floor, football and lacrosse fields.

“We have a lot of history in our program and to reach a milestone like 100 years, 100 seasons of competition is an impressive feat,” he said. “The people in this community take a great deal of pride in that.”

The 2013-2014 Eaglets basketball team is expected to be one of the best in the Catholic League. Silky-smooth junior swingman Teddy McCree (Division I college recruit) and senior off guard Jalen Watts-Jackson (Michigan State football-commit) fuel Porritt’s assault.

McCree sheeted 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists Friday in the team’s thumping of Hartland.

Porritt coached St. Mary’s to the 2000 state crown, a club paced by all-state point guard Maurice Seawright and considered a consensus Top 5 team in the nation.

Seawright, also an all-state wide receiver on Porritt’s 1999 state-title football squad, was developed by Butcher during his freshman and sophomore seasons. He would have a brief college career in both sports at Michigan.

The 1982 Eaglets team that claimed a state hoops championship was led by all-state shooting guard Hiram Harris, who would go on to play in college alongside Hall of Famer Karl Malone at Louisiana Tech.

The 1978 state-title team was captained by future pro baseball player and three-sport first-team all-state superstar Jim Paciorek.

There has been very little drop-off in quality in the over a dozen years since the program’s most-recent state championship run.

Even though Porritt’s Eaglets fell in the district finals last March, the previous two seaons St. Mary’s made it to the Class A "Elite 8."