Birmingham — U-D Jesuit coach Pat Donnelly is running out of things to say about Cassius Winston, and for good reason.
The junior guard dazzled the packed crowd at Birmingham Marian, taking over in the second quarter and finishing with 14 points and eight assists as Jesuit rolled to a 55-34 victory over Warren De La Salle in the Catholic League A-B Division boys basketball semifinals.
After both teams struggled to make baskets in the first quarter, Jesuit started the second on an 11-0 run to open up an 18-6 lead.
Ikechukwu Eke opened the spurt with an offensive rebound and putback. Winston followed with a jumper from the elbow and then muscled his way into the lane and showed off his deft touch with a floater. Gary Collins added a layup, and Obi Duru buried a corner 3-pointer to cap the run.
De La Salle's Matt Grimm end its scoring drought with a corner 3-pointer to make it 18-9 with 3 minutes 41 seconds left, but Jesuit closed out on another 6-0 run behind an offensive rebound and putback by Winston, a layup by Elijah Collins and a nifty spin and driving layup by Winston to double up De La Salle, 28-14, at halftime.
"I was just making the game fun. It's the first time a lot of these guys have been in this situation so I'm just trying to make it the best experience possible," Winston said. "We always come out slow. We're trying to fix that and today it was earlier than the third quarter, so we're getting better."
Jesuit (16-2, ranked No. 8 in Class A) extended its lead late in the third, ending the quarter on a 10-3 run. Greg Eboigbodin (10 points, eight rebounds) provided the spark as he scored eight straight on a pair of fast-break dunks and then crashed the boards for a pair of putbacks to make it 42-21 with 46 seconds remaining.
De La Salle never threatened in the fourth as Jesuit led by at least 21 points the rest of the game while both teams emptied their bench.
"We talked about it before the game and defense is going to win championships for us," Donnelly said. "The fact that we can shut people down a little bit and create easy scoring opportunities in transition off our defense is the key for us."
Jack Ballantyne scored 12 for De La Salle (9-9), which lost both its regular-season games to Jesuit, 56-42 and 47-36.
Jesuit, the two-time defending A-B champ, advances to a program-best third straight final and faces the winner of today's semifinal between Orchard Lake St. Mary's and Birmingham Brother Rice at 3 p.m. Sunday at Calihan Hall.
"It's a blessing. I've been fortunate to come into a program that's been winning," Winston said. "We're taking care of every opportunity."
Waterford Lakes moves on
In the opener, Waterford Lakes kept its perfect season alive with a 72-44 victory over Marine City Cardinal Mooney in a C-D Division semifinal.
Lakes overwhelmed Cardinal Mooney from the start with its size and length, racing out to a 16-2 advantage at the end of the first quarter and 37-20 at halftime.
Nick Robak led Lakes (18-0, ranked No. 2 in Class D) with 23 points. Andrew Kline had 20 and Clay Senerius 14.
Tyler Mrock had 22 for Cardinal Mooney (11-7).
Lakes, the defending C-D champ, awaits the winner of today's semifinal between Riverview Gabriel Richard and Royal Oak Shrine in Sunday's 1 p.m. final at Calihan Hall.
James Hawkins is a freelance writer.