Top-ranked St. Mary's defeats Hamtramck with strong defensive effort

David Goricki
The Detroit News

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.

Orchard Lake St. Mary's guard Julian Roper II rises over the Hamtramck defense for a basket in the third quarter, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 at OLSM HS in Orchard Lake.

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's Hershel Marion, left, drives as he is guarded by Orchard Lake St. Mary's guard Kareen Rozier in the first quarter, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 at OLSM HS in Orchard Lake.

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.

More boys basketball

Dearborn 86, Livonia Churchill 65: Abdo Abu-Zahrah scored 15 and Jamil Hamade 13 for Dearborn (6-1). Jordan Garcia had 26 points and Chase Loving 15 for Churchill (0-7).

Dearborn Fordson 58, Westland John Glenn 50: Mohamad Daher scored 19, Mohammed Sayed 15 and Mohamad Saleh 12 for Fordson (3-4, 3-4 KLAA East). D’angelo Stoxstill had 15 points for John Glenn (4-3, 4-3).

Detroit Douglass 91, Detroit Davis Aerospace 48: Pierre Brooks II had 45 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, and Javantae Randle 20 points and 20 rebounds, and Damon Tiggs scored 15 for Douglass (6-1, 3-0 Detroit PSL). Aerospace is 0-1, 0-1.

Detroit Mumford 70, Detroit Collegiate 16: Devon Howard had 18 points and 12 rebounds, and Jonathan Hall and Andre Hope each scored 17 for Mumford (2-1, 2-1 Detroit PSL). Collegiate is 0-3, 0-3.

Onaway 64, Pellston 49: Jager Mix had 26 points and 15 rebounds, and Kevin Pearson scored 27 for Onaway (4-2, 3-1 Ski Valley). Sage Lalonde scored 20 for Pellston (3-3, 3-1).

Walled Lake Northern 62, Waterford Kettering 28: Kevyn Robertson scored 13 and Bobby McGuire had 12 for Northern (4-1, 4-1 Lakes Valley). Benny Crenshaw had eight points for Kettering (1-4, 0-4).

Girls basketball

Grosse Pointe North 56, Port Huron Northern 40: Annabel Ayrault scored 18, Maddie Kohler 14 and Sophia Borowski 10 for Grosse North (5-1, 4-0 MAC Red). Ally Shagena scored 16 and Camille Keyes 11 for Huron Northern (2-4, 1-3).

Hartland 59, Northville 38: Gracey Metz scored 17 and Lillee Gustson 10 for Hartland (6-0, 6-0 KLAA West). Juliana Imbuzeiro scored nine for Northville (2-5, 2-5).

Madison Heights Lamphere 44, Center Line 17: Kate Robinson scored 20 and Nydia Shumate 10 for Lamphere (4-0, 4-0 MAC Silver). Harley Limberger scored 10 for Center Line (0-4, 0-3).

Plymouth 64, Salem 45: Ella Riley scored 25, Erin Donnelly 15, Elissa Simmons had nine points and 12 rebounds and Kyra Brandon 11 assists for Plymouth (5-2). Skylar Evers had 14 points and Shad Bakkar eight for Salem (1-5).

Plymouth Christian Academy 61, Whitmore Lake 6: Morganne Houk scored 16, Anna Fernandez 13 and Ariela Boboc 10 for Plymouth Christian (5-2, 4-0 MIAC). Whitmore Lake is 2-4, 1-2.

St. Clair Shores Lakeview 50, Fraser 31: Ari Wlodeck had 14 points and 10 rebounds, Tricia Sankiewicz scored 10, and Kayla Austin had 10 points and 10 assists for Lakeview (5-1, 3-1 MAC Blue). Fraser is 0-6, 0-4.


Boys basketball

Detroit PSL

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

Dearborn 86, Livonia Churchill 65

Dearborn Fordson 58, Westland Glenn 50

Howell 56, Canton 48

Livonia Stevenson 54, Livonia Franklin 41

Hartland 61, Northville 41

Salem 57, Plymouth 56

Lakes Valley

South Lyon East 46, Walled Lake Central 37

Walled Lake Northern 62, Waterford Kettering 28


Detroit King 58, Goodrich 43

Madison Heights Bishop Foley 70, Ferndale University 68

Girls basketball 

Catholic League

Macomb Lutheran North 40, Wixom St. Catherine 31

Madison Heights Bishop Foley 67, Clarkston Everest 39


Canton 52, Howell 42

Dearborn 67, Livonia Churchill 40

Hartland 59, Northville 38

Livonia Franklin 45, Livonia Stevenson 43

Plymouth 64, Salem 45

Wayne Memorial 84, Belleville 25

Lakes Valley

South Lyon East 57, Walled Lake Central 42


Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 38, St. Clair Shores Lake Shore 22

Warren Cousino 37, Harrison Township L'Anse Creuse 27

Macomb L'Anse Creuse North 61, Utica Ford 47 

Marine City 46, Roseville 34

Marysville at Sterling Heights, 6

New Baltimore Anchor Bay 58, Utica 37

New Haven 53, Hazel Park 34

Romeo 61, Sterling Heights Stevenson 27

St. Clair 51, Warren Fitzgerald 41

Warren Lincoln 45, Clinton Township Clintondale 20

Warren Woods Tower 45, Warren Mott 32


Clarkston 50, Royal Oak 40

Oxford 62, Auburn Hills Avondale 37

Rochester Hills Stoney Creek 35, Rochester Adams 33

Troy 60, North Farmington 48


Saline 58, Ann Arbor Pioneer 34

Temperance Bedford 58, Ann Arbor Huron 28

Ypsilanti 54, Monroe 44

Ypsilanti Lincoln 44, Ann Arbor Skyline 33


Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 42, Bloomfield Hills 29

Birmingham Seaholm 52, Ferndale University 24

Bloomfield Hills Sacred Heart 30, Orchard Lake St. Mary's 28

Grosse Pointe Woods Liggett 36, Sterling Heights Parkway 27

Waterford Lakes 54, Detroit Country Day 42

Detroit News staff contributed