ORCHARD LAKE, Mich .– Orchard Lake St. Mary’s coach Todd Covert has lauded the heart and leadership of junior point guard Kareem Rozier all season.
On Wednesday night, Rozier showed just how heartfelt he was when he helped direct Top ranked St. Mary’s to a 59-55 victory over Detroit’s number 6 Martin Luther King.
This past Sunday, just a day after hitting a winning buzzer to beat Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, Rozier found out that his grandfather had died of natural causes.
With a heavy heart, Rozier shone in his first game since the tragedy to score 16 points and collect 8 rebounds to help St. Mary’s hang on in a home and away game to remain undefeated and go 7-0 on the season. .
“This game meant a lot to me,” said Rozier. “It has been a tough week ahead. I learned on Sunday that my grandfather had passed away. The last two days have been difficult but my teammates have supported me and my family is here today. I just had to fight to finish the game. It was very emotional for me tonight, but we had the voice acting and I’m happy.
Despite being the only player on the St. Mary’s roster listed under 6 feet – he’s listed at a generous 5-foot-9 – Rozier has shown that effort is unrelated to his frame.
“Amazing kid,” Covert said. “I told someone earlier that I have been here for 30 years and that I have never seen a child like him. Never. Never seen a leader, never seen a personality, never seen someone as selfless as Kareem. He’s an accomplished playmaker.
St. Mary’s limited King (9-2) to just four points in the third quarter and turned a 32-30 halftime lead into a 46-34 advantage going into the fourth quarter. Triggered by a few transition hoops from senior Julian Roper to open the half, St. Mary’s built the first lead to exceed four points in the game.
“We really had three goals tonight: rebounds, transition offense and defense, and ball movement. I thought we moved the ball probably the best we’ve had since probably the Beecher game. “
Despite his lead at 51-37 with 6:34 remaining, King was far from done.
King reduced St. Mary’s lead in the last quarter with his pressure and speed on defense. On top of that, St. Mary’s struggles at the free throw line (4-9 in the fourth) only made things worse for the Aiglons. A basket from remarkable junior King Chansey Willis with 40 seconds left reduced St. Mary’s lead to 58-55.
“The end of this is on me,” Covert said. “I’ll tell you, for two years, I don’t think anybody’s ever rushed us. I had (Lorne) Bowman and Kareem and all these other kids and nobody usually rushes us.
Willis had a great night for the Crusaders as he finished with a high of 28 points. Senior guard Omar Zeigler added 13 points for King as the Crusaders beat St. Mary’s 21-13 in the fourth.
Roper finished with a high of 18 points while DeCorion Temple added 8 points.
“They’re a great team,” Covert said of King. “I don’t know if there is a more talented team than this and they are so well trained. They have tenacity … They have no holes. They can pull it, they can bounce it, they can squeeze you. They can do a lot of things.
Although King had possession with less than 30 seconds to go, he missed a 3-point attempt with about eight seconds to go. St. Mary’s forward Peter Nwoke grabbed the rebound from the missed shot and gave it to Rozier, who was quickly fouled with 4.0 seconds left.
After missing the first free throw, Rozier pulled off the second and aptly capped his emotional evening with one final point of the game to clinch the victory.
“I know my grandfather looked after me tonight and helped me achieve this victory today,” Rozier said.