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U of D Jesuit uses defense to clamp down on OLSM, moves on to CHSL finals, still chasing title No. 7

By: Scott Burnstein, February 12, 2019, 11:52 pm

BIRMINGHAM — Putting on their hard hats and strapping on their tool belts, the Detroit U-D Jesuit Cubs grinded out a 46-38 victory over a feisty Orchard Lake St. Mary’s squad Tuesday evening in a Catholic League Tournament A-B semifinal played at Birmingham Marian.

Prototypical “lunch pail stars,” Daniel Friday and Julian Dozier, the Cubs senior swingman and point guard respectively, inflicted pain on both ends of the floor for the six-time defending champs.

The Cubs (16-2) will be gunning for an unprecedented seventh straight CHSL A-B crown at historic Calihan Hall on the campus of the University of Detroit-Mercy Saturday night, when they meet the winner of Wednesday’s tournament semifinal pitting Novi Detroit Catholic Central versus Detroit Loyola.

“We brought energy on defense, we were communicating and really getting after it, we hang our hats on that kind of defensive effort” Friday said. “This is a Catholic League dynasty we’re trying to maintain, you can’t keep that streak (of titles) intact without hard-nosed defense and a mindset to outwork your opponents late in games.”

Most polls have the Cubs the No. 1 team in the state in Division 1. Before the current run of banners by U-D Jesuit, the most championships in a row in the CHSL’s top division was the four-consecutive Catholic Central reeled off in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

The Ivy League-bound Friday, inked with Brown for his college ball, was hampered by foul trouble in the first half Tuesday, but came out smoking in the third quarter. The 6-foot-5 menace on the wing went off for eight straight points to open the second half, three coming off feeds from Dozier — the final pair of which he slammed home. U-D Jesuit led 23-18 at the half and after Friday’s second dunk in a matter of a minute midway through the third quarter, the Cubs were ahead 29-21.

St. Mary’s flurried in the final 50 seconds of the frame. Wisconsin commit Lorne Bowman’s triple and a bucket in the paint from Eaglets sophomore center Peter Nwoke tied the game at 32-32 heading into the fourth quarter.

Defensive pressure proved the difference. Dozier’s steal and lay-up started the fourth, sparking a 9-2 U-D Jesuit run that put the game away. Friday blocked Bowman at the rim on a potential game-tying lay-up and senior off guard Jordan Montgomery picked Bowman’s pocket and went in for a fast break hoop at the 4:55 mark to make it 38-34. Following a St. Mary’s miss, Dozier then found Friday for a basket in the lane. St. Mary’s never got within two possessions in the closing 90 seconds.

U-D Jesuit coach Pat Donnelly credits the success his program has had to a commitment to defense.

"The whole team, the whole program is built on defensive toughness," he said. "We needed it down the stretch tonight and it was there for us again."

Friday registered 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. Dozier, as gritty and savvy as they come out of the backcourt, nearly charted a triple double, going for 10 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals. U-D Jesuit forced 16 second-half turnovers.

Todd Covert, St. Mary’s coach, went out of his way to commend Friday in his postgame remarks.

“Daniel Friday is a big-time player. … I know he’s not a wow-you-with-his-scoring type, he’s not dropping 30, 40 points per night, but man does he make plays. He makes his teammates better, he outthinks his defender. He’s old school, he knows how to play all the angles out there,” Covert said.

Bowman netted a game-high 19 points for the Eaglets. St. Mary’s falls to 11-7.

“We had some critical errors, a few of our own making, tonight and it was the death of us,” Covert said. “Those guys (U-D Jesuit) just wear you down, the wear you down mentally and they wear you down physically.”