By Jeremy Balan
Sacred Heart Cathedral’s boys basketball team is not only continuing to rack up impressive victories – the Irish are starting to win with style.
The high-flying duo of senior forwards Joshua Fox and Taylor Johns combined for 41 points, most emphatically on six dunks, in a 63-49 West Catholic Athletic League win over visiting Riordan on Wednesday.
While the above-the-rim display left the biggest impression, but it was the pair’s performance outside the paint that could give future WCAL opponents nightmares.
The duo knocked down several mid-range shots and combined to shoot 3-of-4 from 3-point range.
“These guys are different,” said Sacred Heart head coach Darrell Barbour. “They can make a basketball play on any part of the floor. It speaks to what kind of players they are. I don’t know why they announce Taylor as a center, because he’s more than that.”
Johns also had a game-high 11 total rebounds and two blocks, while Fox collected eight rebounds, but no player hit the offensive glass like 6-foot-1 guard Herman Pratt.
The Sacred Heart junior had six offensive rebounds and shot 7-of-11 from the floor to score 16 points.
“That’s the beauty of this team. We’re not a two-man team,” Barbour said. “They know Taylor and Josh are what people see and talk about, but they know their opportunities are going to come, and when they come, they take care of business.”
After a slow and sloppy start for both teams, Sacred Heart (15-1, 4-1) took a 11-8 lead late in the first quarter and did not relinquish the advantage.
The Irish extend their lead to 36-17 at the half, but Riordan (9-7, 2-4) outplayed Sacred Heart for most of the second half behind the sparkling play of junior point guard Geru Mabrey.
Mabrey scored 14 of his team-high 16 points in the second half and nearly cut the Sacred Heart lead to single digits early in the fourth quarter. After a layup from senior forward Iwunna Ugbaja to open the quarter, Mabrey had steals on Sacred Heart’s next two possessions and followed each with a fast-break layup.
But Pratt answered with six points of his own in the fourth quarter and the Crusaders never got within 10 points of the Irish.
“He needs to be more of a floor general, but he’s coming into his own,” Riordan head coach Rich Buckner said of Mabrey. “This is still his first year of playing varsity basketball and it’s the first year he’s being scouted. He’s at the top of teams’ scouting plans.”
The difference ultimately came down the the frontcourt, however, as Fox and Johns simply overpowered the Riordan forwards.
“It’s like a broken record for us – defend the post,” Buckner said. “That’s the subtitle of our year. We’re pretty good on the perimeter, but we’re small inside. From here on out, in every single game in the WCAL, that’s going to be on the top of the board, to guard the post and box out.”
With the win, the Irish are still in a three-way tie for first place with Serra and Mitty, with a showdown on the road against the Monarchs looming Friday.
The Irish frontcourt will be tested by standout Mitty junior forward Aaron Gordon and the Monarchs took both regular-season meetings between the teams last season, but Barbour wants to take the focus off the individual matchups.
“I don’t want it to be Gordan against Taylor and Josh,” Barbour said. “We can’t make it like that. It’s about us going out and beating Mitty, not beating Gordon. Last year, we fell into that trap.”
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Joshua Fox – 21
Taylor Johns – 20
Herman Pratt – 16
Tyler Petroni – 4
Khalil James – 2
Geru Mabrey – 16
D. J. Harvey – 12
Iwunna Ugbaja – 9
Daniel Selsor – 5
Anthony Castillo – 3
Here is another bonus video from our friend George Nguyen and Yay Area’s Finest