By Bonta Hill
In the opening game of the meat-grinder called the West Catholic Athletic League, Sacred Heart Cathedral was faced with the difficult task of playing against their rival Riordan without their best player.
But the Irish outlasted visiting Riordan 45-37 behind Martin Folan’s two three-pointers late in the fourth quarter, and that proved to be the difference in the tight, physical contest.
With standout forward Taylor Johns sitting out for missing practice, fellow forward Joshua Fox carried much of the load with 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Yanoj Jackson chipped in 11 points off the bench as the Irish (9-2, 1-0) overcame 19 turnovers to pull out the victory.
“We knew Taylor wasn’t going to be [playing] and we all knew we had to step up because Taylor is a big part of this team,” Fox said. “We all trust in each other, so I thought we would still come out with the win.”
Riordan (6-5, 0-1) trailed for most of the game, but they had plenty of opportunities to pull the upset on the road.
With the pace of the game to their liking, the Crusaders didn’t help themselves offensively, as they shot a meager 11-of-48 from the floor, including 5-of-21 in the first half. Much of the poor shooting had to do with numerous missed layups.
“I know the kids were upset with the missed shots,” said Riordan head coach Rich Buckner. ““It’s just back to the drawing board. The kids know they missed the layups, they know they missed the shots, and I’m not going to bury them anymore about that.”
However, the Crusaders only trailed 26-20 at the half, and turned up the defensive pressure on the Irish in the second half, which had the Sacred Heart offense befuddled.
Sacred Heart’s control of the game started to slip in the third quarter as Riordan’s man-to-man defense started to suffocate the Irish, forcing them into 4-of-11 shooting and four turnovers.
“Third quarter was a killer for us. We didn’t score very many points and the tempo wasn’t to our liking,” said Sacred Heart head coach Darrell Barbour. “I think our guys got a little gun-shy, missed a couple of shots and we got tentative.”
Down 35-29 going into the fourth, Riordan would cut the Irish lead to 35-33, but just as the Crusader faithful began to make noise, Sacred Heart guard Martin Folan’s corner three-pointer would quiet them as he put his team up 40-35 with just under three minutes left in the game.
Then when Riordan cut the lead to 40-37, Folan sank another back-breaking three-pointer that would give the Irish a 43-37 lead with just under 1:53 left in the game.
“The team has confidence in me, they always want me to shoot,” said Folan, who finished with 10 points. “They always feed me the ball and that’s great to have as a teammate.”
For Riordan, it was another tough loss, as their offense sputtered badly down the stretch. The Crusaders shot 3-of-17 in the fourth quarter to cap off a rough shooting night.
“You would think that when you only give up 45 points in the ballgame, that you would do something more on offense to win,” Buckner said. “It’s the second time this season where we’ve held a team to 45 points, but we couldn’t get over the hump offensively.”
Despite playing without Johns, Barbour was proud of the way his team fought through their first league game against a rival. Even though his team wasn’t able to play faster due to Riordan’s defense, Barbour was equally proud of his team’s defensive performance.
“Both teams played very hard and that’s the beauty of being in this league, because no game is a gimmie. Riordan played their tails off, but our defense stepped up tonight,” Barbour said. “It’s a good win. It’s better to be 1-0 than 0-1. We got off to a good start, but we need to come back tomorrow and have a good practice and get ready for Friday’s game [against Valley Christian].”
Riordan will regroup and try to earn their first league victory Friday at home against St. Francis.
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Joshua Fox – 12
Yanoj Jackson – 11
Martin Folan – 10
Herman Pratt – 7
Robert Yee – 3
Aaron Anderson – 12
Anthony Castillo – 11
Brandon Edison – 6
Jordan Dougherty – 6
D.J. Harvey – 2