The Priory Rebels are two-for-two in tournament championship games this season.
The second-seeded Rebels defeated top-seeded Hancock 49-33 to win the Affton Holiday Tournament. Earlier this season, the 8-2 Rebels won the Lutheran St. Charles Tournament.
“Playing in big games is always a plus,” Priory coach Bob McCormick said. “It will help you when the districts roll around.”
Priory has won seven games in a row after losing to Tolton and Mater Dei earlier.
“We have won seven in a row after losing two and I thought we could do this,” McCormack said. “We didn’t get discouraged after the Tolton loss and we know we didn’t play well against Mater Dei. I told the kids we had a good ballclub and we could turn it around. And we have.
“I always tell them the harder you work, the luckier you are. They work hard. If we can get it done on the defensive side of things, we can win games.”
Priory earned a 2-0 forfeit win over Crossroads Prep in its Affton opener.
“They had some guys go out of town and not tell the coach,” McCormack said. “They ended up only having four guys show up. It was a little disheartening. We got to practice down there. It’s never happened before, getting a forfeit in the tournament.”
Priory scored a 68-45 win over Windsor of Imperial in the semifinals. Junior Charlie Ferrick led the attack with 22 points. Sophomore Harrison Wilmsen added 20 and senior Nick Kurz scored 14 points and a team-high 12 rebounds.
“We really guarded who we wanted to guard in that game,” McCormack said. “We really did a great job in our zone and we did it for 32 minutes. When you do that, you give yourself a chance to win. We did some nice things defensively. We play a 2-3 zone. It worked.
“We tell our kids you have to work even harder in a zone than in a man to man just because of the defensive principles we have. They really work well together. We played air tight defense.”
Priory got a 49-33 win over Hancock the title game. Ferrick was only Rebel in double digits. He scored 22 points. He also was the leading rebounder with eight. He dished out six assists and had two steals along with a blocked shot.
“We don’t have a big rivalry with Hancock,” McCormack said. “We don’t play them often. We’ve been in opposite tournament brackets and they’ve not been on our schedule. It’s a good time of the year to play a quality team like that.
“We were fortunate to really well in the game. My coaching staff and I discussed that it would be a real nice test for us and it was. We came through and ended the year on a nice high note.”
Priory controlled much of the game. The Rebels led 21-18 at halftime. Priory outscored Hancock 14-4 in the third quarter to take command.
“They made a nice run later in the second half on us and it was tight when the got within five points once,” McCormack said. “Holding them to 18 points in the first half was a tremendous effort on our part. But were able to get to the line Ferrick was 12 for 14 from the line.
“We wanted to give ourselves a chance to play in the finals and we did. They really responded. We won seven in a row now. It’s a good feeling. We’re playing like we’re capable of playing.”
His team was happy to claim another tournament title, McCormack said.
“They were so excited. We talked after the semifinal game that we’d given ourselves an opportunity to win another tournament, McCormack said. “That’s the objective. You want to give yourself a chance. We have the type of team that has gotten together. They go to dinner. They go to each other’s houses. It’s a close knit group.
“It’s a pleasure to be around families like this. The kids will do anything to represent Priory in a positive manner.”
Priory also won the tournament in 2015 and 2014. The Rebels beat Affton for the title in those years.
“We love this tournament,” McCormack said. “It’s good for us. We play three games in three days. There’s not a whole lot of preparation. But they like to play.”
Ferrick made the all-tournament team.
“He really was the floor captain and is playing with a lot of confidence right now,” McCormack said. “He’s averaging over 20 points a game but he does just so much more than score. He’s a great team leader as a captain. Not a whole lot of times have I made a junior a captain but he’s so deserving.
“He is the floor general for us. The kids feed off his energy. It just such a pleasure to coach a young man like that. He does what you want him to do and everybody else follows.”
Wilmsen had a good tournament as well, McCormack said.
“For a sophomore, he has such a presence about him,” McCormack said. “He’s pretty skilled for a kid 15 years old. It’s nice to have not to coach against a young man like that.”
Priory returns to action at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 2) against Duchesne in St. Charles.
The Rebels have a home Metro League game at 7 p.m. Friday against John Burroughs.
“We’re going to be getting into league play,” McCormack said. “Our league is really, really tough. We play each other home and away. You’ve got to be ready to play every night.”
Priory is 1-0 in league play, having defeated Lutheran South. The Bombers are 0-1 in league action and 5-4 overall.
“Burroughs is a really tough ballclub. They play hard-nosed defense,” McCormack said. “It will be a good challenge.”