ST. LOUIS — Friday night will be a St. Louis high school rematch for the ages, with each team having the chance to make school history with a victory.
The De Smet Spartans (15-6) will host Cardinal Ritter (17-5) in the Class 5 quarterfinal game.
These two teams last met in Cardinal Ritter’s season opener on Dec. 8, 2020, when the Lions beat the Spartans 84-76 in double overtime.
It was De Smet’s third game of the season, and one they didn’t forget. Both teams have grown exponentially since that point in the season.
The Spartans are coming off a 71-44 smackdown over St. Dominic in the sectional game.
De Smet senior shooting guard Jeremiah Walker hit a career milestone as one of three Spartans in double figures as they advanced to their first quarterfinal appearance since 2013.
They did so without help from senior forward and future Missouri Tiger Yaya Keita, who’s been injured this season, and senior center Sekou Gassama who missed the game.
De Smet head basketball coach Kent Williams took over the program four years ago. He said it’s been a goal to get the team back to a quarterfinal game, and further, but that the focus Friday is on that game, and that game only.
“We talk about daily goals that we need to accomplish to get to here,” Williams said. “And now when you’re one step away it’s easy to start looking forward and thinking about those things but just trying to keep the guys grounded. And letting them think about what we need to do to win Friday night, and then we’ll let whatever happens after that happen.”
For the Lions, the storyline is different. The team has help from four players who are averaging double digits in each game this season.
Cardinal Ritter returns to the quarterfinal game in 2021 after defeating O’Fallon Christian in the Class 3 quarterfinal game last year.
The Lions went on to be crowned Class 3 state champions after defeating Charleston on March 14, 2020, for their eighth state championship in program history. They were one of the only state champions crowned before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Cardinal Ritter head basketball coach Ryan Johnson said the experience from last season has played a crucial role in the team’s success this year when preparing for high-pressure games like the one on Friday night.
“You know, we’re dealing with kids,” Johnson said. “So being put in a situation to where it’s a pressure-packed situation, everybody doesn’t respond the same way. You know what I mean. It’s a lot on the line. And kind of the thing we talk about a lot is pressure is a privilege, and if you’re in a situation where it requires pressure then you’re in a good spot because you’re doing something good to get there.”
Johnson said this is the type of game the Lions are built for.
Tip-off is at De Smet at 6 p.m. Friday.