OLSM rolls over Brother Rice in CHSL semis, takes aim at first league title since 2008
BLOOMFIELD HILLS — If you’re going to pick your poison from the Orchard Lake St. Mary’s roster, it wouldn’t be wise to base that decision the size of the pill.
Listed at just 5-foot-8 — and one of just two Eaglets under the 6-foot mark — sophomore Kareem Rozier can do almost as much damage as his taller — and sometimes better-known teammates.
Like he did Wednesday, when he got hot, nailing five 3-pointers in the Eaglets’ 74-40 lambasting of Birmingham Brother Rice in the semifinals of the Catholic League’s Bishop Division tournament, helping send them on to the finals for the first time since 2015.
“Man, it’s been a while. We’ve been working hard all season, so we’re just trying to finish it up. We don’t want to get this far and let it get away from us, so we’re going to do everything to get the job done,” said Lorne Bowman II, who admitted he’s excited to make the unfamiliar trip. “Yeah, it’s exciting. Time goes by so fast, though. The season’s almost over. Gotta finish strong.”
OLSM (17-1, 8-0 CHSL Central) will face the Cubs (12-6, 5-3 CHSL Central) for the Bishop Division title at 7 p.m. Saturday at Calihan Hall on the campus of the University of Detroit Mercy.
The Eaglets are making their first trip to Calihan Hall with Todd Covert as the head coach, and haven’t won the CHSL title since 2008, when he was an assistant under George Porritt. That title was the last of a run of three straight.
After three CHSL titles by Warren De La Salle from 2009-11, and one by Novi Detroit Catholic Central in 2012, Detroit U-D Jesuit has won the last seven straight since then.
St. Mary’s beat U-D Jesuit twice in the regular season, 60-50 on the road and 68-60 at home, and have won nine straight since their only setback of the season, to Flint Beecher on Martin Luther King Day.
Playing for championships is sort of the expectation for this team, especially after Julian Roper Jr. transferred in from Detroit Country Day.
“We knew that we were going to be loaded, with ‘Reem (Rozier), and Deuce (Jason Drake II), and me and him (Bowman) just as leaders on the team, just take everything in our hands,” Roper said. “There’s no question, whether it’s playing for a championship, or playing a regular-season game, we want to win, every single time.”
The Eaglets would like to cap the weekend with their 13th Catholic League title, certainly. But it’s been the other title — a state title — that’s been on their minds from the get-go.
“That was the goal from the start of the season, state championship or bust. With all this loaded talent? We could sugar-coat it, but we’re not going to sugar-coat it,” Bowman said. “We want to play for championships, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
The Eaglets wasted no time getting ahead of Brother Rice (11-7, 4-4 CHSL Central) in Wednesday’s game, scoring six straight in the first quarter to pull out to a 10-5 lead, then ripping off 12 straight to push the lead to 15 points right before the half. Another 9-2 run at the start of the third pushed the lead to 20. It reached 30 on a 3-pointer by Jack Crighton in the fourth quarter.
“Those are our little spurts. If we can get a couple of those spurts a game, we’re pretty tough. The thing about those was those were good shots. I thought we took good shots tonight. Sometimes we can force a little bit. But tonight we took good shots,” Covert said. “I was really proud of their focus. It’s easy to take their foot off the gas, but they kept it on, continued to take good shots, continued to play great defense. I was happy with that.”
Each of the runs contained at least one 3-pointer from Rozier, who was happy to bomb away from the outside when the Warriors packed it in on Roper, Drake and Bowman.
“I know Kareem got hot there,” Covert said. “I was telling somebody early on, he put in a lot of work. He has been extremely good defensively. He’s hawking that ball, all night, every night. Takes people out of what they do a little bit. But he shot the ball really well tonight.”
Does he get a little overlooked amidst all the star power in the Eaglets lineup?
“He plays with Emoni in the summer, so he’s probably overlooked there. He’s playing with a couple of Division I guys, so he’s probably over looked (here),” Covert admitted. “Yeah, that’s well-put.”
His teammates are appreciative of the sophomore, who scored 18 Wednesday.
“He’s been playing really well, this last couple of months,” agreed Bowman, who finished with 16 points. “That’s another thing I love about our team is that we’ve got a lot of different guys that can hurt you. People locking in on us (Bowman and Roper), we can get him the ball, and he can get hot really quick. Everybody’s just happy for each other. You make a shot, and we’re just cheering somebody else on.”
Roper had just three points at the half, but turned it up for 18 second-half points to finish with a game-high 21. He had 13 points in the third quarter alone.
“Just knowing that they were going to come hard, low, and everybody else was hot, so I just stepped up my game big,” Roper said.
Curtis Williams had 12 to lead Rice, while Jon Brantley had 10.