1999 Class 2A State Championship Team
Our 1999 basketball season was like a dream come true! Adding to a core of talented seniors and some fiesty sophomores, the team was blessed with two 6' 9" exchange students, Tomas Nagys from Lithuania, and Ousmane Cisse from Mali. After winning the regional tournament in Troy, the team went to the "Big House," the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center in Birmingham, Alabama, where it defeated a disciplined, well-coached Hatton High School team 62-57 in the state 2A championship game.
2000 State Championship Team
Catholic conquers the division in Birmingham repeat!
By Art Parker, Sports Editor, The Montgomery Independent
Montgomery Catholic High School has done what few teams have done in the past in any sport. They have won two state championships in successive years. The two games they played in Birmingham in the state championship tournament were splendid. Catholic is the only school in Montgomery County to boast a state championship in 1999-2000 thus far.
They were led by a genuine superstar in Mindaugas Statkus, a Lithuanian exchange student that missed part of the year with an injury. The Knights are to be commended, not just for their great season and Class 2A state championship, but for the great sportsmanship and dignity they displayed while maintaining their crown.
Two in a row for the 2A champions!
Maurice Bailey, the very business like coach of the Catholic Knights, has been blessed with talented athletes and assistant coaches. His teams are well coached in the fundamentals. They pass, shoot and play defense well. Bailey does something else that serves as a valuable lesson for anyone in any field of endeavor. This coach determines the necessary plan of action and sticks to it. Good start or bad, Maurice Bailey is not one to push the "abort" button. That was the case in Birmingham last week at the state high school basketball tournament, as the battle hardened Catholic Knights romped to consecutive 2A State Championships.
The first in a pair of victories!
The two games played by Catholic in the final four had different beginnings. They had a terrible start in the first and came out hot in the second. There were anxious moments in both games as their championship crown was threatened. Bailey did not budge. He kept his team focused and reminded them of their task. Sluggish from the opening bell, Catholic allowed Belgreen to score the first 9 points of the game. Belgreen was licking their chops thinking they had caught the champs on an off night. Although Catholic eventually defeated Belgreen 78-58, they failed to get on the board in the first four minutes. Bailey called timeout and pulled his team together. "I was a little worried but I still wasn't about to change the game plan. Among other things, I told them we needed to step it up on defense," said Bailey. The Knights came back to the floor and went to work. They hit Belgreen quick and just before the first quarter horn sounded, the eventual tournament MVP, Mindaugus Statkus, hit one of his patented jumpers that tied the game at 13 all. Statkus led all scorers with 24 points and blocked 4 shots while pulling down 6 rebounds.
Catholic continued the rally into the second quarter, popping Belgreen with 9 unanswered points. Belgreen was still in the hunt until Statkus delivered his first of two defining tournament statements. Belgreen's Davey Gassaway slipped through down low and scored on a one-handed dunk. The move was not too pleasing to Mr. Statkus who later said he grew up in an atmosphere where there was not much dunking. "I just like good team basketball," the Lithuanian exchange student later remarked. Catholic in-bounded after Gassaway's score and moved down the court with Statkus parked in the corner, waving for the ball. He took the pass and moved right for the lane, which was crowded with foes. One could tell that nothing was going to stop him. A deafening hush fell upon the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center as Statkus soared above the Belgreen forwards. At the peak of his colossal leap, with both hands on the ball, Statkus rocked the house with a thunderous dunk, forever changing the music of the semi final dance. The authoritative move sent a "no more foolishness" message to the opponents. The Knights took a 37-26 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The outstanding semi final performance by Catholic was not limited to Statkus' play. Bailey's team showed its tremendous depth as solid performers Ben Reardon, and eventual All Tournament selection, Holder Nevins came off the bench to score 10 and 11 points respectively. Catholic really began to look like champions in the third quarter, extending their lead to 20 points, behind the floor leadership of Reginald Calloway. The Knights' quick point guard had 9 points, 5 steals and 5 defensive rebounds. Quenton Urquhart made positive contributions in every statistical category. Reliable players like John Manolakis (11 points) and another All Tournament selection, Brad Dobson, (6 points and 6 rebounds), provided the additional experience that gave Catholic a 25 point lead midway through the fourth quarter. Bailey made sure all of those in uniform played and the regulars got a rest. They deserved it. They had played all but four minutes close to perfection.
Bailey was pleased after the semi final noting, "The only thing we could have done better was to get off to a better start." The Catholic players confidence was obviously high. An excited Ben Reardon best described the Knights' performance when he said; "I just can't imagine us playing any better than we played tonight." It was one down and one to go.
Time to repeat
Students, parents and fans went all out on the trip to Birmingham for the final, arriving with the look of those you see in the stands on a Super Bowl Sunday. Even the younger fans from St. Bede made the journey to support the Knights. After all, it is difficult to win a state championship in any sport, but winning successive championships is a rarity. The Catholic faithful wanted this one as bad as the players did, holding two fingers in the air demanding back to back state trophies. Despite a couple of rocky moments, their demand would be met.
Unlike the first game in Birmingham, the Knights were off to a lightning beginning. Catholic spotted Belgreen 9 points in the first game. This time the opponent, Section High School, spotted Catholic a lead of 8 points. Catholic was up 10-3 and looked like the championship game would be a boring affair. Section came roaring back with three point shots and good defense. "We got lax. We didn?t stay on them and we gave them the three point shots," said Holder Nevin as he described the quick Section comeback. The smaller team from North Alabama couldn't take the lead but they were not letting the Knights runaway either. The Lions pulled to within a single point ending the quarter 13-12 and Catholic realized they had a fight on their hands.
Led by the sharp shooting Statkus and offensive manager Calloway, the Knights showed their experience with a 17 point flurry in the last 5 minutes of the second quarter. Their lead swelled to as many as 12 points and they finished the half leading 34-24. Section was not going to take it sitting down. The Lions came out in the third quarter determined to erase the Catholic lead. They came very close. For the second time in the game, Section mounted a charge, slashed a big Catholic lead and came within one point of tying the game. Calloway came alive once again for Catholic, hustling at all ends of the court, scoring points and grabbing rebounds. He sparked the offense with his sharp, deceptive passes to Nevins, who would sneak beneath the basket, and to Statkus, hanging around on the perimeter. The Knights were in the middle of a 20-4 scoring spree and the rally would be alive at the end of the period. Statkus left his calling card a final time as a high school player with his second championship statement. With the clock ticking away, Statkus took a pass deep in the corner and it looked as if he would not get the shot off in time. Falling toward the baseline and off balance, he launched one of his feathery shots that would be spinning in mid air when the buzzer sounded to end the quarter. It was like most of his shots; the net was barely ruffled. The Catholic side of the arena erupted in a mighty roar and the celebration began. Yes, this one was over, even though there was still a period to play. Catholic led by 17 points and was well on their way to an eventual 81-61 victory and a 23-9 championship season.
Section committed twice as many fouls as Catholic. That was a major contributor to the Knights point total, especially when you have Brad Dobson (13 points) and Ben Reardon (6 points) going to the line. Dobson nailed 8 of 8 and Reardon was 4 of 4 in the championship game from the free throw line. Holder Nevins tallied 14 points shooting 5 of 7 from the field and Quenton Urquhart was good for fifty percent of his field goal attempts scoring 10 points. Calloway ended the night with only 6 points but did everything else imaginable to aid in the Knights victory. Mindaugus Statkus, tournament MVP, led all scorers with 21 points. For the two championship games in Birmingham, Statkus scored 45 points and connected on 17 of 26 attempts from the floor, for an amazing 65 percent accuracy rate. Well, not amazing to Statkus. That has been his average for the entire season.
After the game, Bailey praised Section (22-6) for an outstanding season. The Catholic coach explained one important reason for the Knights' success. "We play a very tough schedule and many teams on our schedule are in higher classifications. We were prepared to play." As for Coach Maurice Bailey, he deserves a pat on the back also. The chief architect of Catholic's basketball plans has done a great job maintaining a championship program. It's a good thing Bailey does not like to change plans. The ones he made led Catholic to two straight 2A titles.