Birmingham — Followers of basketball know there are few stretches more important than the final two minutes of a game, and that was certainly true Wednesday night for Warren De La Salle in its 53-52 victory over Detroit Loyola in a Catholic League A-B semifinal at Marian High.

Down 52-49 with 33.5 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter De La Salle senior forward Kevin McKay made a pair of free throws that cut Loyola’s lead to one. Then, McKay made the go-ahead layup with 10.8 seconds left, sealing the win.

“Our kids obviously didn’t quit,” De La Salle coach Greg Esler said. “They outplayed us for 30 minutes and I’m proud that we didn’t throw in the towel. It was a great team win. Now we’ll get ready and prepare for (U-D Jesuit) on Sunday.”

McKay finished with 17 points for De La Salle (13-5). Jack Ballantyne added 11 and Quinton Glaspie 10.

U-D made short work of Dearborn Divine Child in the other semifinal Tuesday, 60-29.

“We’ve won five over the course of the years, and they’re going to try to be the second Catholic team to win four in a row,” Esler said. “Hopefully we can spoil that.”

Loyola took advantage of offensive miscues from De La Salle in the first quarter, going on an 8-1 run in less than a minute. Loyola, which came into the game with an 11-game winning streak, led 10-5 with 2:30 left in the first. De La Salle settled in to even the score at 12-12 after one.

Late in the second quarter, Loyola made its move. It went on a 9-0 run in the final two minutes, capped by a Romari Ennis layup at the buzzer. At the break, Loyola had a 33-22 lead.

“We knew they were going to come out and give us everything they’ve got,” Loyola coach John Buscemi said. “We wanted to let the guys know that this game was far from over.”

De La Salle made its push in the third quarter, cutting Loyola’s lead to 43-36 after 24 minutes.

“It was just what we said,” Buscemi said. “They turned up the pressure.”

McKay said De La Salle will be going into Calihan Hall for the final with a chip on its shoulder, after relinquishing a six-point lead late on Feb. 12, the last game between the two teams. U-D won 51-47.

“We feel like it’s finally another team’s time to do it,” McKay said of winning an A-B title. “We know they’re the No. 1 team in the state and we want to be the first to beat them this season.”

DeQuan Powell scored 13 to lead Loyola (14-4), which plays Friday against an opponent to be determined.

C-D semifinal

Royal Oak Shrine 43, Riverview Gabriel Richard 39: Tom Beasley had 15 points, Ian Gappy nine and Eathan Groth eight for Shrine (13-6). Jake Kopetzky scored 15 for Gabriel Richard (13-4). Shrine will face Waterford Lakes in the C-D championship game on Monday at Calihan Hall, in a rematch of last year’s C-D title game.

More boys

Detroit Denby 64, Detroit Jalen Rose Academy 51: William Goodwin had 35 points and Shaquile Thompson had 17 for Denby (9-7). Johnny Russell scored 18 for Jalen Rose.


Detroit Mumford 51, Warren Regina 44 (OT): Shardaye Yharbrough had 19 points and Deanna Fletcher had 12 for Mumford (11-5). Teresa Diehl scored 13 for Regina.

Al Willman is a freelance writer; News staff contributed