The eventual legacy left behind by this year’s St. Michael the Archangel boys’ basketball team increased in substance.
Not only did the Warriors reach the 26-win plateau — the second highest victory total in school history — but also ended a 19-year drought without playing in a state quarterfinal game.
No. 10 St. Michael (26-6) earned the right to host tradition-rich and No. 2 seed Peabody (28-6) at 7 p.m. Friday by virtue of stopping No. 7 Leesville 49-40 in a road regional Tuesday.
“It was a great experience for the kids,” St. Michael coach Drew Hart. “This has been four years coming. It’s been a whole process and they don’t want this to end. We know we’ve got our hands full on Friday, but they feel confident and will give it their all just like they did the last game.”
No. 8 Runnels also earned a bit of distinction for its own program, advancing to its first Class 2A state quarterfinal following Tuesday’s 73-65 regional victory over No. 9 Archbishop Hannan.
The Raiders (20-11), who reached the Top 28 in 2008 in Class B, are faced with the task of traveling to top-seeded Riverside Academy for a 7 p.m. quarterfinal on Friday.
“There’s a lot of excitement about it and we had a great crowd,” Runnels coach Ben Young said. “It’s been a while since Runnels has had a lot to cheer about in basketball, so it was a lot of fun.”
Class 1A’s top-seeded Madison Prep Academy didn’t seem to mind a six-hour round trip regional contest against No. 17 Tensas, handling the Panthers 92-54.
That sets up a return trip home where the Chargers (32-1) host No. 8 Southern Lab (22-7) — a team they’ve already defeated three times — at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We actually liked the idea of going on the road in the second round,” MPA coach Jeff Jones said. “We’re able to use it as a little bonding trip to refocus and re-energize. We liked the adversity. It’s something you need at this time of the year, and we’re excited about getting back and facing Lab.”
A combined 40 points from guard Jacob Evans (27) and center David Ventress (13) carried St. Michael offensively, while the Warriors collective effort on defense limited Leesville (24-7) to a season-low 40 points.
St. Michael reclaimed a 31-29 lead after three quarters and gained just enough separation in the final quarter where Evans, a Cincinnati signee, scored 16 of his game-high total.
“That was by far our best defensive effort this season,” Hart said. “It wasn’t our best offensive effort. We didn’t shoot the ball well, but it really didn’t matter. It was the team that made the last stop and had the last surge. I was proud of the effort on the defensive end.”
Young said a switch from a man-to-man defense to zone was the catalyst in Runnels holding Hannan’s Noah Griffin to only two second-half points after he had 17 in the opening half.
Runnels outscored Hannan 43-27 in the second half to overcome an eight-point halftime deficit with Grant Welch scoring 27, Hampton Hudson 17 and Josh Sparks 15.
“By changing defenses, we were able to create some turnovers,” Young said. “We contested some shots, got some rebounds and hit free throws down the stretch.”
If MPA’s 29-10 first quarter lead wasn’t impressive enough, the Chargers established a 45-25 halftime advantage and 72-44 cushion after three quarters. St. John’s commitment Brandon Sampson led the way with 17, Rhode Island signee Christion Thompson added 15 and sophomore Josh Anderson 13. The Chargers also made nine 3-pointers.
“They came out playing hard in the first half,” Jones said of Tensas. “They had a big crowd but our big three was real steady. After halftime we kind of opened it up a bit and settled in.”