Yuri Collins woke up not particularly feeling like himself on Saturday.
It took two quarters for Collins to get his feet, or foot, back under him.
“If I was going to step on that court, I was going to give it my all, one leg or not,” he said.
Collins took a bad fall in the semi-finals game the day before between his St. Mary’s squad and Ladue. His teammates stepped up in his absence and Collins knew he couldn’t let his knee stop him from playing the game he loved with a state title on the line.
“It’s been hurting since yesterday … I’ve been through a lot with this knee. This morning I still couldn’t walk on it, I was walking around with a cane,” he said.
Collins’ performance on Saturday is one for the books. While kept to 11 points in the first half, he exploded in the second to finish with a game-leading 34 points. But his standout performance on the basketball court was not enough to overcome the Grandview Bulldogs from Kansas City. The Dragons fell 69-64.
While he may not have the title he wanted, Collins brought hardware home to the big house on Grand Avenue for the first time in 87 years. And the St. Mary’s squad may have fallen short of their goals against the defending state champs, but coach Bryan Turner has a positive outlook on this season.
“For a team that didn’t win a championship all year to come home with a state second place, it was fabulous,” Turner said. “Sometimes winning doesn’t show up on the scoreboard.”
Grandview, led by Deandre Sorrells, was hungry for a back-to-back title run. The Bulldogs went up by double digits early and never eased off the gas. Not ones to roll over, the Dragons battled back twice to bring the score within one point. Grandview’s defense came alive in the fourth to keep St. Mary’s at bay and claim the championship.
Much like the game, the Dragons’ season has been full of ups and downs and the squad wasn’t on many people’s radar for a state run. After a successful 2018 season, St. Mary’s lost key players and Collins didn’t start half of the season due to an injury.
“It hurts that we lost but it’s good that [we made it] with this group, this is the group that everyone thought wouldn’t make it,” Collins says. “I wasn’t going to go down on my team because we didn’t have the team from last year.”
St. Mary’s has a bright future despite key seniors graduating. Sofara Rasas has been a dominant force and a great complement to Collins this year. Rasas’ return, along with Junior Noah Hamilton, should give the team a shot at returning to Springfield.
As for Collins, Turner knows how special he has been to St. Mary’s. “We are already picking out spots to retire his jersey…,” he said. “It’s been great to coach this kid.”