COLUMBIA — The Rev. Mike Coleman stood to say the pregame prayer. He faced a brown cross that is mounted on a tan wall on the southeast side of the gym at Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School. The rest of the gym stood with him.
Tolton says a prayer before every game. But this one was special.
Tuesday night was the second installment of “The Catholic Bowl” between Tolton and visiting Helias Catholic High School.
“It’s just awesome,” Coleman said about the new rivalry. He said it was very special knowing that all of the players share a faith with him.
“It gives me goose bumps,” Coleman said. “I’ve baptized some of those kids.”
There was a certain sense of unity in the gym, Colman said, knowing that everyone there was connected by something bigger than sports.
Tolton coach Tyler Clark agreed with Coleman.
“We love other Catholic schools. There’s a brotherhood between the schools,” Clark said. “But there’s also a bit of a sibling rivalry of sorts."
As far as rivalry games go, there isn’t much more the players or fans could ask for than what occurred Tuesday night.
Helias came into the game ranked No. 7 in Missouri's Class 4. Tolton, in only its second year with a varsity team, knocked off Helias 68-67 thanks to some late heroics from freshman Michael Porter Jr.
Porter Jr. finished with a game-high 35 points.
The two teams were close the entire game. The largest lead was nine points by the Trailblazers. In the last 50 seconds, there were four lead changes. The last lead change occurred when Porter rose above three defenders to hit a turnaround jumper from the right elbow with 13 seconds left to claim the victory.
Helias junior Isiah Sykes hoisted a last-second prayer for the Crusaders that clanked off the back rim.
Tolton students stormed the court; an act a school official later chastised some students for doing.
As the finals seconds were winding down, Coleman’s heart was racing.
“I used to cheer for Helias. But not tonight,” Coleman said with a grin spreading across his bearded face.
Coleman calls the games over the loudspeakers for the Trailblazers. As the final buzzer sounded, his voice rattled around the gym: “Trailblazers win.”
“That was awesome,” Porter Jr. said after the game. “It’ll be a rivalry for years to come, and it’ll be one of our best games every year.”
Clark called the win the biggest in Tolton’s history.
Tolton junior Josh Boyer said there is nothing more you could ask for in a rivalry game.
“I don’t know about the last-second shots and stuff. I’d like it to be a 10-point game,” he joked.
Boyer said that knowing everyone on the court was of the same faith as he is made the game, and the win, very meaningful.
“It’s nice that all of us are thankful for the moment that we are in. Some schools, it’s all about themselves,” Boyer said. “But we try to give everything to God.”
Coleman agreed with the players and was all smiles after the game.
“Man,” Coleman took in a deep breath of air, soaking up the moment, “that was a special moment for me.”
Supervising editor is Erik Hall.