NOVI — It was like looking in a mirror; same teams, same result and almost the exact same score.
The boys basketball team held on to a slim lead in the final two minutes to knock out Detroit Catholic Central with a 48-46 win Wednesday night at Novi High School.
It was the second straight year the Eaglets knocked out their Catholic League rival in the Class A regional finals.
"We’ve had six games against these guys in the last three years," Shamrocks coach Bill Dyer said. "Their kids are tough, our kids are tough; we’ve had games like this all the time. They got us twice (in the playoffs), two years in a row, both great games."
Last year, Shaun Covington hit free throws with 12 seconds left to ensure a win for St. Mary's over Catholic Central in his senior season.
However, free throws almost cost the Eaglets the game on Wednesday.
With a 47-46 lead, St. Mary's junior guard Sam McClendon missed 4-of-5 attempts from the line in the last 1:18 of regulation, but Catholic Central couldn’t score on its final three possessions.
Shamrocks guard Richard Katkic had a shot blocked with 2.7 seconds to go by Jalen Watts-Jackson. On the final play, Katkic missed a 3-pointer from the corner.
"He (Katikic) had a good look gosh darn it; it looked good," Dyer said. "I want him to have that shot again, I want that thing to go in."
Catholic Central’s last ditch effort was a one-handed putback attempt from Kyle Cooper off Katkic’s miss.
"Oh man; off the glass, off the rim once or twice, and out," Dyer said. "It was tough."
Baskets were at a premium all night for both teams. Going into halftime, it was a very low scoring game with St. Mary’s holding on to a 23-21 lead.
In the third quarter, it was Eaglets forward Chibunna Ukandu who separated the teams. He scored eight of his game-high 19 points in the third.
"I felt like I had to step up because we were struggling for buckets there," Ukandu said. "I knew that they couldn’t guard us real well off the dribble. I just tried to take what they gave me and help my team out."
When Catholic Central went on a 5-0 run to tie the game at 28-28 midway through the third, Ukandu hit a 3-pointer to put his team back up five points at 33-28. Later in the quarter, he completed a three-point play after another quick 5-0 run by the Shamrocks.
"He was unbelievable," St. Mary’s head coach George Porritt said. "He was big time, he was battling, trying to get put backs, battling, putting up awkward shots. You saw a great performance by Ukandu today."
Ukandu will try to carry that momentum into next week when his team heads to Davison High School (1250 North Oak Rd., Davison) for the quarterfinals matchup against Saginaw at 7 p.m. March 20. Last year, the Eaglets lost to Bay City Western in the quarterfinals 60-49.
"It’s great that we can be a part of this," said Ukandu, a senior.
- Jack Dillon led Catholic Central with 16 points. Cooper finished the game with 11 points with three 3-pointers.
- St. Mary's senior Mason Porritt injured his back with 2:30 to go in the first quarter. The Eaglets' guard went up for a rebound and appeared to collide with another player. He landed awkwardly and trainers immediately attended to him. Mason came back on the floor for the final minutes and watched from a wheelchair. Porritt said his son was OK and that it was a bad knot from the collision. After the win, his teammates all showed their support by running over to him with high-fives and hugs.