Top-ranked St. Mary's defeats Hamtramck with strong defensive effort
Orchard Lake — Hamtramck had plans on defeating the No. 1 team in the state for the second straight game, but Orchard Lake St. Mary’s would have none of it, protecting its home court with a 53-43 victory Tuesday night.
Hamtramck — 5-1 and No. 6 in The News Super 20 poll — defeated then-No. 1 River Rouge, 62-56, on Friday night with River Rouge slipping to No. 7 in this week’s poll and St. Mary’s sliding up a spot to No. 1.
It’s the first time the teams have played in 40 years with the series starting 101 years ago.
And, Hamtramck got off to a great start with 5-foot-10 senior guard Javier Whitaker scoring eight during a game-opening 10-5 run, making a pair of 3-pointers.
Whitaker, who scored 40 and made eight 3s in a season-opening win over Detroit Catholic Central, made 8-of-16 3-pointers in a district semifinal win over Grosse Pointe South last year before the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
St. Mary’s went on a 10-0 run to take a 15-10 lead and never trailed the rest of the way.
Hamtramck, with its guard trio of Whitaker, sophomore point guard Amari Allen and senior James Clay, made things interesting, pulling within 40-38 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We had to mix it up (in fourth quarter) so we started trapping the ball to give them a different look and slow them down,” St. Mary’s Coach Todd Covert said. “We just buckled down and got some stops.
“We knew before the game it would be a street fight. I give that coach (Dennis Foster) so much respect for the schedule that they play. They will go play anybody and that guy is building a phenomenal program at Hamtramck.”
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Northwestern-bound guard Julian Roper scored 15 for St. Mary’s and 6-8 senior Peter Nwoke had 12 points and 12 rebounds, scoring multiple points off of putbacks. Will Smythe scored 12, all coming on 3-pointers with junior point guard Kareem Rozier added five points and eight assists.
Rozier sparked the pivotal run with three assists and St. Mary’s got its perimeter game going with a 3-pointer by Smythe, along with its offensive rebounding, leading to a three-point play by Roper.
Roper stuck to Whitaker like glue in the second quarter and when Whitaker did break free off a screen, he missed his jumpers and when he did make a 3 it was wiped out by an illegal screen.
Whitaker was held scoreless during the second quarter, missing all three of his 3-point attempts while St. Mary’s did some damage on the offensive glass, cashing in on eight second-chance points with Nwoke doing the bulk of the work to open up a 33-21 halftime lead.
Hamtramck received 3-pointers from Allen and Whitaker to cut the deficit to 36-27 early in the third, but again Nwoke went to work on the offensive glass while Smythe made his third long-range shot for a 38-27 cushion.
Clay made sure Hamtramck wasn’t finished, scoring all 11 of his team’s points during an 11-2 run to close the third quarter out to cut the deficit to 40-38.
Clay started his run with a driving layup, followed by a 3-pointer, then a three-point play off a drive and another 3-pointer with 25 seconds left in the quarter.
St. Mary’s again responded with an 8-3 run to open up the fourth for a 48-41 lead, including a steal and coast-to-coast layup by Roper and a dunk by Nwoke.
Clay made two free throws to get Hamtramck within five, but Smythe made his fourth 3-pointer off a Rozier drive and kick out and St. Mary’s made two more free throws for the 10-point win.
Hamtramck misfired on its final five 3-point attempts and was limited to just five fourth-quarter points as Roper continued to play well defensively against Whitaker (11 points, 4-of-12 shooting, 3-for-8 on 3-pointers) and Rozier gave Clay (20 points, 7-of-11 shooting) little room to operate down the stretch.
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Detroit Renaissance 75, Detroit Western 51
Detroit Southeastern 53, Detroit East English 48
Grosse Ile 57, New Boston Huron 54
Monroe Jefferson 77, Milan 69
Riverview 55, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 52 (OT)
Belleville 59, Wayne Memorial 26
Brighton 65, Novi 55
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Detroit News staff contributed