By Jeremy Balan
Sacred Heart Cathedral may have lost the chance to regain the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy in its first meeting against St. Ignatius, but the Irish got a slice of redemption on Wednesday, and it came with a bullet.
The Irish may be playing their best basketball of the season, and showed it against St. Ignatius, serving the Wildcats their first loss at home with a 53-36 win in West Catholic Athletic League play.
“I don’t know if it was redemption, because I really felt we let one get away in the Bruce-Mahoney [game],” said Sacred Heart head coach Darrell Barbour. “In the second half we were just lights-out. I just love to see us when we’re playing hard and flying around, but with some discipline.”
The Irish (16-4, 8-2) began the game on an 11-0 run by hitting their first four shots from the floor and held a 20-15 lead after the first quarter, but the Wildcats (14-6, 6-4)limited Sacred Heart to just four points in the second, and the Irish clung to a 24-21 lead at the break.
“When you spot the team 11 points, and you have to battle back, it’s hard,” said St. Ignatius head coach John DeBenedetti. “In a game like this, that’s too much to overcome.”
But the Wildcats actually took the lead, their only one of the game, early in the third quarter after a three-pointer from sophomore forward Stephen Domingo, but the Irish responded with a 12-2 run to end the quarter and opened up the lead to as many as 19 points in the fourth.
The Irish got a team-high 10 points from junior forward Taylor Johns, but nine Sacred Heart players would finish with points, including 17 from the bench. Leading the charge from the bench was senior guard Robert Yee, who had nine points, six coming in the fourth quarter as the Irish were pulling away.
“It shows that our team is filled with a lot of skilled players and we don’t have to rely on one or two players to do all the scoring,” Yee said. “After our starting five, we can bring people off the bench and continue the momentum, and that’s critical.”
Standout senior guard Johnny Mrlik led the Wildcats with a game-high 15 points, but they shot just 25 percent from the floor as a team and 3-for-17 from three-point range. What may have hurt them most, however, was attempting to play up to the Irish tempo, which Sacred Heart imposed on both ends of the floor.
“When the game picked up in terms of speed, there’s something intriguing about playing a fast, fun game,” DeBenedetti said. “But that’s just not a game we can play against these guys.”
With the win, the Irish hold on to second place in the WCAL, just a game behind Archbishop Mitty. If the Irish can hold serve at home against St. Francis on Friday, they would face off with Mitty on Saturday for a shot at a share of first place.
“I told them that this would be a big week for us,” Barbour said. “The longer you go, and if you keep winning, the bigger the games get. They’ve embraced that and they like the challenge.”
For DeBenedetti and the Wildcats, they can only hope for their own dose of redemption in the WCAL playoffs and the CIF-Central Coast Section Division III playoffs.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt we’ll see them again,” DeBenedetti said. “This is going to be at least a trilogy, and we’ll be ready for the rubber match in a week or in a month, whenever it comes up.”
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Taylor Johns – 10
Robert Yee – 9
Joshua Fox – 8
Martin Folan – 6
Zachary Tapel – 6
Johnny Mrlik – 15
Stephen Domingo – 9
Antonio Aguilar – 3
E.J. Silvia – 3
Two players tied with 2 points