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BOYS BASKETBALL: U-D Jesuit hangs on to a 61-59 win over St.Mary’s, led by Billy Thomas’ 24 points

By: Branden Hunter, January 22, 2014, 12:00 am

DETROIT – Sophomore Billy Thomas went off Tuesday night, for a game-high 24 points in a 61-59 win over Catholic League rival, Orchard Lake St.Mary’s for U-D Jesuit.

But in the final moments, Thomas had his teammates missed crucial free throws, that extended the game and allowed St.Mary’s to get a last second shot attempt.

"We were a bit tired at the end," he said. "But we are all talented and capable enough to make clutch shots in situations like that."

Two consecutive 3-pointers by Thomas gave U-D Jesuit a comfortable 57-41 lead, with 4:24 left in the game. But St.Mary’s refused to go away and had one more run left in them.

Junior Ted McCree started things off with a 3-pointer of his own, to cut the lead to thirteen, at 57-44. He led the Eaglets in scoring with 20 points, 11 rebounds.

With the score 58-48 with just over a minute to go, CJ Wilson hit a huge 3-pointer to pull St.Mary’s within seven. McCree was hot the entire night and didn’t show signs of cooling down. After two missed Cassius Winston free throws, McCree hit another 3-pointer with 47.3 seconds to go to make the score 58-54.

"Orchard Lake didn’t give up," said U-D Jesuit coach Pat Donnelly. "And when have a kid like Ted McCree and I thought Jalen-Watts Jackson played a great game tonight. We were worried about McCree coming in, but I thought we did a good job on him in the first half, but we lost him in the second.

That can’t happen again, because held McCree seven points in the first half, as they held a 38-26 lead. Thomas and Winston both played well for the Cubs in the first half, scoring 14 a piece and giving the St.Mary’s backcourt fits on both ends of the floor.

"It was just a regular game for us," Thomas said. "We are expected to do this every game and we have the potential to do a lot more damage as the season goes on."

U-D Jesuit blew a 15 point lead in the third and well as their 16 point lead in the fourth and almost let the game slip away from them.

St.Mary’s got within two, at 58-56, when senior Roger Hood sank two free throws with 27.8 seconds left in the game. In order to extend the game, the Eaglets had to foul and hope U-D Jesuit would miss their free throws. And it almost worked for them.

Down 60-59 now with 7.3 seconds left on the game, Thomas hit one of two free throws and gave St.Mary’s a shot at either tying the game up or hitting a three for the win.

McCree’s last second shot attempt was rebounded by Winston and U-D Jesuit escaped with the 61-59 win. Winston had himself a great night, with 20 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Watts-Jackson chipped in 13 for St.Mary’s.

"That’s beens something that we have been talking about all year, that we can’t play in flows," Donnelly said. "We have to have consistent energy, because we are a good team. We have a lot of good athletes but what has gotten us to 7-1 at this point has been our defense, intensity and effort.

We really didn’t play defense with the intensity that we needed to in the fourth quarter and we have to make free throws."

St.Mary’s fell to 6-4 on the season and 1-3 in league play. Head coach George Porritt said his team took a tough loss to U-D Jesuit, but that they can’t hang their heads, with another important game against Brother Rice looming on Friday.

"I just told my guys to get ready for Friday," Porritt said. "They beat us the first time around and it doesn’t get any easier."