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U-D Jesuit wins unprecedented seventh straight Catholic League title

By: Scott Burnstein, February 16, 2019, 10:00 pm

DETROIT — University of Detroit-Jesuit continues to sit pretty on the throne and its cage crown just got another jewel.

The No. 1 ranked Cubs collected their remarkable seventh consecutive Catholic League boys basketball title Saturday evening down at Calihan Hall by bumping off Novi Detroit Catholic Central 63-54 in the A-B Division championship game. Before U-D Jesuit’s ongoing string of league crowns, no club had ever won more than four in a row in the state’s storied Catholic League.

Pat Donnelly, U-D Jesuit’s coach and the architect of the Cubs current Catholic League dynasty, knows the significance of the title surge.

“It’s one heck of an accomplishment, it’s a tribute to the kids that have come through this program the last seven years, too,” he said. “Players in this program know how to work hard, they know how to compete. That work ethic, that attitude, pays off in things like this.”

U-D Jesuit’s scrappy senior point guard Julian Dozier dazzled in his return to Calihan Hall and the CHSL finals following a one-year absence attending prep school in Arizona, breaking loose for a poisonously comprehensive effort of 25 points, eight assists, five rebounds and five steals.

“This is an amazing experience, I appreciate it more this year now that I’m back with my team, which is like my family,” Dozier said. “I play for the moment. Tonight, there were some big moments to have and I wanted to have them for this team and my teammates. I wanted to show them I got their backs again.”

His coach was thrilled with Dozier’s performance in the clutch.

“Julian’s tough as nails,” Donnelly said. “Whenever we need him the most, he comes through for us.”

With the game knotted 42-42 entering the fourth quarter, Dozier kick-started U-D Jesuit’s offense out of the huddle with a triple from the left elbow. His steal and dish to J.T. Morgan for a fast break bucket seconds later ignited a Cubs defense that buckled down in a major way in the game’s waning minutes. Stifled by U-D Jesuit’s frenetic pressure, Catholic Central could only manage a single basket in the final four minutes of play.

Catholic Central took its last lead of the night at 50-49 with 4:32 remaining on a jam by senior center Justin Rukat. The Shamrocks wouldn’t score another field goal until the final seconds of the game and the outcome already decided.

Jalen Thomas’ one-handed leaner in the lane gave U-D Jesuit the lead back for good on the ensuing possession. Signed with the University of Massachusetts, the 6-foot-10 Thomas dotted the stat sheet for 13 points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots. Thomas’ two free throws made it 58-51 with 1:24 left. Dozier’s three from the stripe lifted the Cubs advantage to the double-digit mark for the first time (61-51). Mr. Basketball candidate Daniel Friday (Brown) finished with 10 points, six boards and four assists.

Rukat totaled a double-double of 18 points and 14 rebounds to anchor Catholic Central (14-4). Shamrocks senior forward Davis Lukomski fired in 15 points and snared eight rebounds to augment Rukat in the frontcourt.

"We couldn’t close the deal. We got our looks, we just didn’t execute them," first-year Catholic Central coach Brandon Sinawi said.

U-D Jesuit (17-2) went on top 28-25 at the half. Transfer guard Caleb Hunter, who won a Class D state championship and is the youngest son of retired NBA vet Lindsey Hunter, chipped in with critical minutes in the fourth quarter for the Cubs, scoring five points and forcing a pair of turnovers. Hunter’s nifty hoop, foul and free throw when he switched hands on his way to the rim and converted the bucket in heavy traffic, provided U-D Jesuit a 54-50 lead with a little more than three minutes to go.

Next up for U-D Jesuit is an Operation Friendship showdown versus PSL champ Detroit Cass Tech Friday back at Calihan Hall. Of Catholic Central’s four losses this year, three have come to the Cubs, who are shooting for a second state title in four years this season.