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Photo Credit: Sid Hastings

Speedy Cardinal Ritter launches to victories

Fast-paced transitions are a hallmark this year for the Cardinal Ritter College Prep boys basketball team.

For example, against Bishop DuBourg High School Dec. 18, the Ritter team busted out after a 2-point lead in the second quarter, scampering full speed up and down the court to lead by 9 at halftime. Then the Lions of Ritter roared in the second half to a 70-37 win.

Cardinal Ritter, 9-3 on the season, scored more than 70 points seven times and 85 or more points three times so far this season.

"Speed helps," said Cardinal Ritter's coach, Randy Reed. "We're really athletic, quick and play smart basketball."

His team wasn't at its best early in the game against DuBourg, and Reed credited the DuBourg players. "They gave us a good game early on. They're a well-coached team," he said.

The win was the 400th of Reed's career. He's in his second year at Cardinal Ritter after a 17-year run at McCluer North High School and a couple years at St. Louis Community College, where he was a former junior college All-American in the late 1970s. He played at Kansas State and professionally in Europe.

Cardinal Ritter's Malek Davis, a junior point guard, said the team wanted the milestone win for their coach. "We needed it coming off losing two games in a row," he said.

The team plays hard and fast to make up for a lack of height, Davis said. "We can play with anybody. We like to get up with people," he said, crediting Cardinal Ritter's coaching staff.

He's honored to attend Cardinal Ritter, with its rich history as an accomplished school, its sports tradition and family atmosphere. Basketball's competitiveness "keeps me going every day," said Davis, who last season earned all-conference honors in the AAA small division after averaging 12.6 points, 4 assists and 2 steals a game.

His faith provides a positive outlook and a "keep God first" priority in his schoolwork and his activities.

Ronald Welch, a senior who poured in 21 points vs. DuBourg, displayed his talent in the game, taking over the second half with fade-away shots, twists under the basket, slams and more. "It was a good team win," he said of the game, especially with two players, Jared Phillips and Breon Mosby, missing because of injury.

The team lost some key seniors from last year's team, but current seniors show their leadership by helping younger players who moved up from the junior varsity squad. "They have to learn to play fast and keep their head on a swivel," Welch said.

He's both a basketball and football player and appreciates the sports. "You gotta have fun. You have to have some type of swag about yourself," he said.

At Cardinal Ritter, he's challenged to keep up the legacy of the past. "It's an honor to be part of something special like this," Welch said.

His philosophy is to keep God first, play to his strengths, believe in himself and rely on a supporting cast. "I pray every night, pray before we come on the court and afterward," he said.

Bishop DuBourg

DuBourg's coach, LaDon Champagnie, said he was pleased with his team's patience in the first half of the game vs. Cardinal Ritter, the style of play he said fits his team best. In the second half, the players' impatience and the fact that two players were missing due to injuries hurt the team's chances for victory, Champagnie said.

DuBourg has a lot of young players who are improving, and "they'll put us over the top" in the future, he said.

Champagnie enjoys coaching at DuBourg because "they're really great kids, a joy to be around, even outside of the gym."

He helps them keep God first and stress their belief in God. "Watching young kids grow into men is the best reward of all," he said. "Even if they don't play at the college level, the kinds of young men, fathers, husbands they will be — that's what's important to the program."

DuBourg's Julian Johnson, who had 7 points in the Cardinal Ritter game, said the team is improved from last season. "We've stepped up a lot. I can rely on other players more. It takes the pressure off, and I can enjoy the game more. Our shooting is better, we break the press almost every time and we turn the ball over a fourth less than last year," he said.

Johnson relies on his faith to remind him to play his best and to keep his emotions in check.

A.J. Sanford led DuBourg with 13 points and 8 rebounds in the Cardinal Ritter game before fouling out. 

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