By Jeremy Balan
Considering the final score and the way the game played out, some would conclude that Sacred Heart Cathedral played poorly in its 74-61 loss to visiting Bishop O’Dowd — but the Irish simply ran into one of the best teams in the state.
The Irish got solid performances from junior forwards Joshua Fox (14 points) and Taylor Johns (13 points) but struggled at times offensively, especially at the free throw line, where they went 13-for-27.
The 13-point deficit doesn’t tell the whole story, as the Irish never seemed to be in the game after the Dragons ended the first quarter with a 20-12 lead.
“The better team won, there is no disputing that,” said Sacred Heart Cathedral head coach Darrell Barbour. “The frustrating part for us was that we couldn’t make a shot and we got good shots. When you’re struggling to score from the field, you have to make free throws, because that gives you confidence. They made theirs and we didn’t.”
The Dragons carried a 59-41 lead into the third quarter, but it was the Sacred Heart bench that added a touch of drama late.
With a combined 11 points from junior Tyler Petroni and sophomores Yanoj Jackson and Khalil James, the Irish went on an 11-2 run and cut the O’Dowd lead to 70-57 with 3:15 remaining.
The late run showed just how bright the Sacred Heart future can be, as the Irish return standouts Johns and Fox next season, and only lose one starter, in guard Martin Folan.
“The experience they went through this year is only going to help them,” Barbour said. “If you look at what Josh Fox and Taylor Johns did against that front line, that size and athleticism, I’m so proud of them. They can play with anyone.”
The Irish held standout O’Dowd forward Brandon Ashley scoreless in the first half, but the deep and balanced Dragons offense had five players score in double figures, including Ashley, who had 13 second-half points, punctuated by two dunks.
Even though the season ended somewhat unceremoniously for the Irish, Barbour was happy with his team’s year, which featured its third-consecutive CIF-Central Coast Section championship.
“Any time you take second in our league, you’ve accomplished something,” Barbour said. “A lot of people didn’t know what to expect when we lost to Serra the way that we did [in the West Catholic Athletic League playoffs]. Our kids were resilient after that, but it didn’t surprise me. Other than winning the whole thing, we had a special year.”
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Joshua Fox – 14
Taylor Johns – 13
Tyler Petroni – 10
Herman Pratt – 10
Yanoj Jackson – 6
Anders Haas – 14
Richard Longrus – 14
Brandon Ashley – 13
Terrence King Jr. – 12
Kendall Jackson – 10