Three Catholic high school basketball teams from the archdiocese that went to the state finals March 15 and 16 gave fans plenty of reasons to cheer. Only one team won, but the coaches of all three expressed pride in their successful seasons.
Incarnate Word Academy took home a championship, its 10th, in Class 4 girls with a 61-35 win over Lincoln College Prep. St. Mary’s High School, aiming for its first state title, lost a close contest 69-64 to Grandview in Class 4 boys and Christian Brothers College High School, which has six state titles, lost a heartbreaker 63-59 to Rock Bridge in Class 5 boys.
Incarnate Word’s coach, Dan Rolfes, said his team started slow but “our defensive intensity, the staple of Incarnate Word basketball, got us into the flow.”
The win was a special reward for the six seniors who set examples with intensity during each practice and game, he said. “Sometimes that’s not the easiest thing to do when they’ve already been here and done that. They’ve already won.”
The players buy into the program that he establishes, Rolfes said. “These seniors hopefully have taught the freshmen and sophomores what success is all about and what it takes to be successful. It’s something that’s in the culture of IWA basketball. There’s high expectations,” he said.
It’s going to be hard to lose the seniors, Rolfes added. “They’ve been like my family. I’m excited for them, at the same time. I’m going to miss them. I’d like to keep them another four years. I’m not sure they’d like that,” he said to laughter.
While the wins are great, he enjoys seeing former players come back and root for the team. “To see them with their kids, the jobs they have. To me, that’s equally as enjoyable as a state championship.”
Kiki Britzmann, a senior guard who scored 19 points, said “Incarnate basketball is something very different than any kind of basketball I’ve ever played. You have to give it your all every day because you know, especially for us seniors, what a state championship feels like and you want that feeling again.”
Britzmann, who missed last season due to injury, said she told herself “this is just another game. The great thing about Incarnate basketball is we prepare ourselves so thoroughly before the game. But it’s good to have nerves before a game, honestly. I think it can help drive some passion in the game.”
Rickie Woltman, who had 14 points and 13 rebounds, said she stayed calm by reminding herself she’d been to the finals before. “We’re prepared and we’re here for a reason,” Woltman said. “We earned this.”
A member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in St. Charles, Woltman said “a lot of it is not only playing for each other but also playing for God and trying to keep God in mind in everything we do.”
Britzmann said a faith life helps players be more confident. “I know that basketball isn’t everything. There’s definitely a bigger picture. Being selfless. The Lord has blessed me with a lot. He’s blessed me to be able to go to Incarnate.”
Incarnate Word also won state titles in 1995, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018.
Incarnate Word, 30-2, defeated St. Charles West 76-33, and St. Charles, 71-25, in the district tournament before beating St. Francis Borgia, 73-24 in sectionals and Parkway North, 60-52, in quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Incarnate Word defeated Miller Career Academy 59-28. Marisa Warren had 17 points and Britzmann had 15.
St. Mary’s win-win
St. Mary’s trailed 38-30 at halftime. Fouls and a lack of rebounding held the team back. The Dragons came back in the third quarter, scoring 21 points and holding Grandview to 14.
St. Mary’s coach, Bryan Turner, said “to be in this situation, to be in this game, it was a win-win regardless.”
A second-place trophy is certainly a good thing, he said. “A lot of people at the beginning of this year didn’t expect us to be in this situation, playing in this game. Grandview is a great team, defending state champions. We got down early but I knew my guys, I knew they had some fight in them.”
Star player Yuri Collins played with an injury to his leg from the previous game but scored 34 points. “I was happy and satisfied with my guys all year,” Turner said. “It was a fun situation. I was kinda like taking in the moment. We’re grateful to be here. Some things just didn’t fall our way down the stretch. All year we have been trying to develop winners. I told the guys sometimes winning just doesn’t show up on the scoreboard.”
His role is as an educator, he said, making sure students learn discipline and focus on their schoolwork. As students at a faith-based school, the players are energized by their faith, Turner said. “We don’t pray for wins and losses. We pray to make sure we’re mindful of what’s going on. We want the guys to give it their all. We want them believing in something.”
St. Mary’s defeated Miller Career Academy 82-70 and Gateway 75-58 in districts, then beat Hillsboro 95-46 in sectionals and Central of Cape Girardeau 68-62 in quarterfinals. They won 57-46 in the semifinals against Ladue Horton Watkins.
CBC shows respect
CBC coach Justin Tatum showed respect for opposing coach Jim Scanlon after the game in an interview room with a hug and kind words. Tatum cited the skill of Rock Bridge players. He also praised his junior guard Caleb Love, who scored 28 points for CBC. “The season was a success since we got here,” he said.
CBC defeated Kirkwood 92-46, and De Smet, 72-55 in districts and Eureka, 62-30 in sectionals and Mehlville, 69-56 in quarterfinals. In the semifinals, CBC defeated Francis Howell 64-62. CBC was behind 36-27 at halftime. Love had 25 points.