Irish top Blair Oaks and punch ticket to Final Four

Irish top Blair Oaks and punch ticket to Final Four

BOLIVAR, MO –– The Irish looked to continue their post-season play against Blair Oaks on Saturday. This matchup was set up after winning District 11 and topping Lamar in the State sectional game. The Irish were familiar with the Blair Oaks team, playing them in mid-December on the Falcons' home court. In that contest, the two teams battled back & forth for 2.5 quarters before the Irish pulled away for a 16-point victory. The two teams continued to have strong seasons after that point with Blair Oaks last lost coming over two months ago against district foe Father Tolton. Father Tolton would beat Blair Oaks twice during the regular season but could not beat them a third time allowing the Falcons to advance out of the District 9 Tournament. 

The Irish looked strong out of the gate against Blair Oaks, jumping out to a 5 point lead in the first 1:30. In that same span of time, the Irish drew two fouls on the Falcons top player Eric Northweather. Jake Branham and Charlie O'Reilly combined for 12 of the 17 points in the first. In the second quarter, the Falcons cut into the Irish lead but Catholic was able to keep their lead with the help of two 3-point bombs by Freshman Zach Howell.

The Falcons would not give up, scoring the first 4 points of the 3rd quarter and taking their only lead of the game at the 6:13 mark. Coach Larsen called a time out and it seemed to be what the players needed. The Irish would go on a 12-0 run and would finish the quarter up 9. In the fourth, the Irish D continued to shine not allowing a field goal until the 5:23 mark. The Irish would enter the bonus and convert 8 of 11 free throws down the stretch. 

The Falcon's coach Ryan Fick was very complimentary of the Irish after the win,

"I don't know if I've seen a high school team run their offense like that group does. I just, I mean ... wow," he said. "Honestly, the way that group runs their offense --- and I think we held them to 17 points below their average --- we did enough, defensively.

"I think where we short-changed them a little bit was how good they are defensively. They guarded us really well and we had a hard time getting anything going on the offensive end. We just never could get into a rhythm or a flow."

The Irish will advance to the MSHSAA Class 3 Final 4 on Thursday and Friday March 7th and 8th. This marks only the third time in school history that a team has made it to the Final Four, preceded by teams in 1958 and 1984; both state champion teams. Springfield Catholic will face St. Paul Lutheran on Thursday at 5:10 and will play on Friday for either a state championship or third place.