The St. Mary's Eagles got the job done.
The D8 champs pulled away late for a 66-51 victory over the D10 champions, the homecourt JF Ross Royals, in a game that was much closer than the final score would indicate.
After the score was 56-50, the Eagles finished the last 3:17 of regulation by outscoring the Royals 10-1, many of those on free-throws after Ross was forced to foul.
It didn't seem like it would be close early, however.
The Eagles, in fact, started off by scoring the game's first 8 points to take a quick 8-0 lead, but the Royals would eventually find their footing and go on a 10-2 run of their own to knot things up.
The first frame ended with the teams tied at 16.
The first frame ended with the teams tied at 16.
In the second quarter, Ross' Andrew Folkerson did some serious work inside for the Royals (both scoring and rebounding), and his put-back with 4:00 to go in the quarter gave Ross a 22-20 edge.
The Eagles would regain the lead late in the first-half with some solid full-court pressure that Ross had some issues with. A couple of steals (and resulting baskets/free-throws) allowed the Eagles to claw out a 27-25 edge at the half.
Folkerson had 12 points and 12 rebounds for Ross in the first-half.
In the second half, the Eagles moved the lead to 4 before Tommy Yanchus drilled a three for Ross to cut things back down to one with 3:30 left. On the next possession though, Jemari Stephenson hit a three-pointer from the corner and was fouled to restore a 4-point lead.
With the Eagles up 44-39 very late in the third, Walter Zelaya found himself alone in the corner with time ticking down and calmly drilled a three-pointer that gave St. Mary's an 8-point edge entering the fourth.
Zelaya then started the fourth quarter by getting a steal and finding Jermaine Lyle for two, which extended the lead to double-digits.
However, the Eagles allowed the Royals to hang around by taking some quick shots on the offensive end and committing some fouls on the defensive side of the ball.
In fact, if Ross was a bit better from the line on Monday, it could have been a very different game. As it was, Ross went 0-for-3 in one stretch (a couple being "front ends" of 1-and-1's) while a 1-of-2 trip from Mo Hussien cut the lead down to 49-44 and 5:00 to go.
The Eagles would maintain a "6 to 9" point advantage for the next couple of minutes before Yanchus hit another three-ball to make things 56-50 at the 3:15 mark.
With the score 57-51 and under 2:00 to go, Folkerson missed a contested layup that could have cut things to 4. This was rebounded by Blumel (who was subsequently fouled), and he extended things to a three-possession game at 58-51.
Folkerson would foul out with 1:11 to go (59-51 SMHS), and the Eagles would score the final 7 points of the contest from the line.
The Eagles made 20-of-33 free-throws, while the Royals were just 7-for-19 from the line in the game.
St. Mary's finished the season with just one loss, an early season one to Grand River in the championship game of the SJAM tournament (although it was without key starter Mike Blumel in their lineup).
Blumel was a beast on Monday, finishing with a 17 point, 14 rebound performance. Jemari Stephenson led the Eagles in scoring with 18 points (and also finished with a double-double, 11 rebounds). St. Mary's scoring was completed by Bronson Bothelo (9), Nathan Riley (9), Jermaine Lyle (8 - despite sitting out a stretch of the second half due to injury), and Walter Zelaya (5).
Folkerson had 15 points and an amazing 18 rebounds for Ross, while Mo Hussien had 15 points as well. Tommy Yanchus was also in double-digits with 10, while other Royals on the scoresheet were Greg Schwan (4), Vlad Vamanu (4), Daniel Street (2) and Nathan Earley (1).
The win was St. Mary's second ever CWOSSA "AAAA" championship (2008) and marked the 4th time in the last 5 years that a D8 team hoisted the AAAA plaque (SMHS - 2008, RCSS - 2009 & 2010). The Eagles were also runners-up a season ago to Forest Heights.
SMHS 16-11-20-19 = 66
JFR 16-09-14-12 = 51
M. Blumel 6-13 FG, 4-7 FT, 14 Reb, 1 Ast - 17 Pts.
B. Bothelo 2-7 FG, 5-8 FT, 7 Reb, 1 Ast - 9 Pts.
J. Lyle 3-13 FG, 2-5 FT, 4 Reb, 1 Ast - 8 Pts.
J. Stephenson 6-9 FG, 4-7 FT, 11 Reb, 1 Ast - 18 Pts.
N. Riley 2-15 FG, 5-6 FT, 7 Reb, 4 Ast - 9 Pts.
W. Zelaya 2-6 FG, 0-0 FT, 1 Reb, 1 Ast - 5 Pts.
J. Voll 0-0 FG, 0-0 FT, 1 Reb, 0 Ast - 0 Pts.
J. Anao 0-1 FG, 0-0 FT, 0 Reb, 0 Ast - 0 Pts.
R. Khan 0-0 FG, 0-0 FT, 0 Reb, 0 Ast - 0 Pts.
E. Agbonze 0-1 FG, 0-0 FT, 0 Reb, 0 Ast - 0 Pts.
Field Goals: 21-65 (.323). Free-Throws: 20-33 (.606). Three-Point Goals: 4-17, .235 (J. Stephenson 2-2, M. Blumel 1-2, W. Zelaya 1-4, J. Anao 0-1, J. Lyle 0-4, N. Riley 0-4).
M. Hussien 6-16 FG, 3-6 FT, 4 Reb, 3 Ast - 15 Pts.
T. Yanchus 4-15 FG, 0-2 FT, 7 Reb, 1 Ast - 10 Pts.
V. Vamanu 2-7 FG, 0-2 FT, 7 Reb, 0 Ast - 4 Pts.
A. Folkerson 6-16 FG, 3-6 FT, 18 Reb, 1 Ast - 15 Pts.
G. Schwan 2-2 FG, 0-1 FT, 1 Reb, 0 Ast - 4 Pts.
M. Binawa 0-2 FG, 0-0 FT, 3 Reb, 0 Ast - 0 Pts.
N. Earley 0-0 FG, 1-2 FT, 1 Reb, 0 Ast - 1 Pt.
D. Street 1-4 FG, 0-0 FT, 3 Reb, 0 Ast - 2 Pts.
H. Cornett 0-0 FG, 0-0 FT, 0 Reb, 0 Ast - 0 Pts.
C. Ahluwalia 0-0 FG, 0-0 FT, 0 Reb, 0 Ast - 0 Pts.
Field Goals: 21-63 (.333). Free-Throws: 7-19 (.368). Three-Point Goals: 2-14, .143 (T. Yanchus 2-11, V. Vamanu 0-1, M. Binawa 0-2).