By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
If you want to know how unselfish the Springfield Catholic Fightin’ Irish are, just watch No. 30 Brett Maes for a few possessions.
Dubbed the team’s “glue guy” by head coach Dustin Larsen, Maes will score on an offensive putback, dive for a loose ball or set a hard screen – and not necessarily in that order all the time.
“I’m always looking to do more than scoring,” said Maes, who had eight points and a team-high seven rebounds against Rogersville. “I don’t care about my stat line. I just look to do whatever it takes to win. If there’s a loose ball, I’m going to get it. Or if I need to manhandle somebody, I’m going to try my best to do that.”
Catholic’s team-first ways carried it to another impressive Blue and Gold victory Thursday night, as the Irish trounced Rogersville 68-51 in the Gold Division semifinals.
The Irish didn’t participate in the Blue and Gold Tournament for several years before making their return to the annual holiday event last year. Now, Catholic has a chance for just its second Blue and Gold title ever, and the first one since 1958.
Catholic faces Republic, which upset top seed Ozark, at 8:30 p.m. Friday night at JQH Arena in the Gold Division title game.
“It’s been tremendous. It’s an honor,” Larsen said of Catholic reaching the finals. “Being from this area and having played in this tournament, it’s an honor to make it to this point. We’re excited and blessed for the opportunity.”
Against Rogersville on Thursday night, Catholic forced seven first-quarter turnovers on its way to an early 15-4 lead and never looked back.
Charlie O’Reilly had four steals in the first quarter and finished with a game-high 22 points. Unofficially, he was 8-for-10 from the field.
His steal and layup in the second quarter put the Irish ahead 28-8. Rogersville never got within single digits the rest of the way.
Catholic senior Ian Cochran added 14 points (7-for-9 shooting) and six rebounds.
Many of Catholic’s points came near the basket, as the Irish sliced up Rogersville’s defense with timely passes that led to easy looks. Catholic only made three 3-pointers.
“The team’s really dialed it in defensively. We set the tone with defense and rebounding,” Larsen said. “Offensively, we’re aggressive; we distribute the basketball and play unselfishly.”
Catholic (9-3 overall) went 1-2 in last year’s Blue and Gold Tournament. This year, the Irish got by Crane in the opening round (60-53) and turbo-clocked Willard (71-41) Wednesday night.
“We were unhappy with what happened last year,” Maes said. “We wanted to come in here, set the tone early. Every day we have to earn respect; not a lot of respect is given to Catholic. We come out with a chip on our shoulders every day.”
Jackson VonBehren and Andrew Scott scored 11 apiece to lead Rogersville. The Wildcats face Ozark at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the Gold Division 3rd place game.
Catholic 68, Rogersville 51
Rogersville 4 19 10 18 — 51
Catholic 15 21 13 19 — 68
Rogersville – Jackson VonBehren 11, Andrew Scott 11, Hunner Johnson 7, Luke Vandersnick 7, Jarrett Stiles 4, Caleb Lowe 3, Cade Blevins 2, Vernon Gipson 2, Ryker Strong 2, AJ Craft 2
Catholic – Charlie O’Reilly 22, Ian Cochran 14, Jake Branham 11, Brett Maes 8, Mike Manzardo 6, Wallace Squibb 2, Will Squibb 2, Tyson Riley 2, Hunter Brown 1