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Orchard Lake St. Mary’s cruised to the Catholic League boys basketball final with a 74-40 victory over Birmingham Brother Rice on Wednesday at Birmingham Marian High School.

St. Mary’s (17-1), which beat Brother Rice for the third time this season, will take on U-D Jesuit in the championship game 7 p.m. Saturday at Calihan Hall.

St. Mary’s coach Todd Covert said his team play on the defensive end was the difference.

“I think we were locked in defensively,” Covert said. “That team (Brother Rice) averages 60 and we really locked in defensively.”

St. Mary led 30-17 at halftime and the trio of Lorne Bowman, Kareem Rozier, and Julian Roper took over, ramping the lead to 56-29 by the end of the third quarter.

Roper led all scorers with 22 points for St. Mary’s. Curtis Williams scored 12 for Brother Rice (11-7).

Covert had high praise for Roper.

“He’s a freak athlete and he’s a tough kid,” Covert said. “When he gets that jumper going that’s why he’s one of the top players in the state as a junior.”

St Mary’s defeated U-D Jesuit twice during the regular season -- 68-60 and 60-50.

Covert said he has a ton of respect for U-D and knows his team will have to play well to win the title.

“They’re a great program and I think they’ve been there eight years in a row,” Covert said. “We’re going to have to play a great game, plain and simple.”

U-D Jesuit hammered Detroit Loyola in the other semifinal on Tuesday, 70-34.

Jonathan Szczepaniak is a freelance writer.

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