Cardinal Ritter College Prep just didn’t win its eighth state championship in boys basketball last weekend. The Lions stormed into Springfield and demolished two excellent teams in Blair Oaks and Charleston, winning the Class 3 state championship.
The Cardinal Ritter onslaught was quick, destructive and relentless for two consecutive days. It was a head-spinning, breathtaking, whirlwind to watch.
On Friday night, the Lions took on a formidable Blair Oaks squad that was ranked No. 1 in the state.
Cardinal Ritter bolted out of the gate on a 15-0 run and the game was essentially over after the first two possessions when sophomore standout Luther Burden picked the pocket of Blair Oaks guards and coasted in for buckets.
The second half of Ritter’s 68-52 victory turned into a dunk-a-thon as senior forwards Garry Clark, Brandon Ellington and junior forward Josh Robinson took turns throwing down impressive dunks.
The 6’7” Clark scored 17 points to lead Ritter while Burden scored 16 points and junior guard Mario Fleming added 13.
What Cardinal Ritter did in the semifinals was just a warm-up for what was to happen in the state championship game. On Saturday, the Lions demolished Charleston 88-32 to set a new state record for margin of victory in the state-championship game.
Once again, the Lions put the game away early with a 17-4 run to start with culminated with a coast to coast drive by Burden for a spectacular dunk.
The Lions led 21-12 at the end of the first quarter, but potential trouble loomed as foul trouble sent several starters to the bench. What happened next was even more astounding as Ritter’s bench mob, led by guards Gary Wilkerson and Ilyaas “Biscuit” Harris sparked a 24-4 second quarter burst and a 45-16 halftime lead.
Things would only get worse for Charleston as Ritter outscored them 37-7 to push the lead to 82-25 after three quarters.
Burden led the way with 18 points followed by Fleming with 16 points and Wilkerson and senior guard Glenn Valentine with 11 points apiece.
Cardinal Ritter finished the 2019-20 season with a 25-6 record and its first state title under the direction of head coach Ryan Johnson.