Charleston Catholic didn't need any luck Friday, because the Fighting Irish had Haston Gerencir.
The 5-foot-9, 155-pound senior guard scored 17 of his game-high 28 points in the second half to rally second-seeded Catholic past No. 3 and defending state champion Madonna 70-46 in the Class A semifinals. A crowd of about 3,000, including two vocal student sections, attended at the Civic Center.
Catholic (23-3), which won its 16th straight, will take on No. 1 St. Marys (25-1) at 2:30 p.m. today, which is St. Patrick's Day, in the state championship game. The finalists didn't play each other during the regular season.
Catholic will be playing in its seventh final in the past eight seasons, winning back-to-back titles in 2006-07. The last time the Irish won it all, in 2007, the title game was played on St. Patrick's Day.
After senior forward Connor Morgan's layup gave Madonna a 34-27 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter, Gerencir and his Irish teammates went to work, outscoring the Blue Dons 43-12 the rest of the way.
Gerencir scored nine straight points on back-to-back 3-pointers and a three-point play on a baseline jump shot and free throw to give Catholic the lead for good at 38-36 with 2:48 remaining in the third period.
Gerencir nailed another trey 56 seconds into the fourth quarter as the Irish built their lead to five points (44-39). Senior center Drazen Frankovitch made 1-of-2 free throws to pull the Blue Dons within 44-40 with 6:46 to go, but that would be the closest they would come.
Catholic closed out Madonna with a resounding 19-0 run in the final period as Gerencir scored five more points to put the Irish ahead 63-40 at the 1:48 mark.
"Once you hit a shot or two you want to keep shooting because you have the hot hand,'' said Gerencir. "I thought we practiced well [the last several days]. We're really coming together and I saw this game that we had a chance of winning.''
"He's very quick,'' Madonna sophomore guard Ross Comis said of Gerencir. "The other guys are quick and sometimes you need to help off and he was open for shots. I felt like when we were in his face he had a tough time making them. He's a good player and had a good game.''
Gerencir made 11-of-15 shots, including 4-of-6 from long range, and added six rebounds, three assists and four steals.
"Haston went through three-fourths of the season playing at a very high level,'' said Catholic coach Bill McClanahan. "The last few games Haston has leveled off and worked on some other things, rebounding, playing defense and distributing the ball, and we have still been winning.