By Jeremy Balan
SAN JOSE – Sacred Heart Cathedral may have had the best team on the floor against Archbishop Mitty High School on Friday, but there was no doubt which team had the best player.
Mitty star forward Aaron Gordon scored half of the Monarchs’ points and had a game-high 14 rebounds in a 62-59 West Catholic Athletic League win over the visiting Irish.
Sacred Heart’s frontcourt tandem of Taylor Johns and Joshua Fox put up more than a valiant effort, with Johns scoring 24 points and Fox adding 19, but Fox’s final 3-point attempt with 2 seconds left clanked off rim and the Irish fell just short.
“I think we’re the better team, but they won tonight,” said Sacred Heart head coach Darrell Barbour. “We didn’t come out here to come close. We came here to win. It was a great high school game, but a play here, a play there, and this is a different game. We just didn’t get it done.”
Gordon scored 12 points in the first quarter and seven points in the second, but the teams were neck-and-neck throughout the first half and the score was tied at 32-32 heading into the break.
Johns, who guarded Gordon for most of the game, had success denying the ball from the standout junior, but he got several baskets on put-backs off offensive rebounds.
“He scored too easy at times,” Barbour said. “He makes it look easy, because he’s so good, but athletically, Taylor is just as good an athlete, he just doesn’t have the size. A player like that is going to score his points, so you have to make him work to get them.”
After playing even with the Monarchs (14-3, 6-1) through the first half, the Irish (15-2, 5-2) came out in an offensive funk in the third quarter and Mitty opened its biggest lead of the game at 46-35 midway through the frame.
The Irish offense settled for jump shots early in possessions and struggled to get the ball inside, as the Mitty defenders off the ball sagged to help the defender guarding the ball-handler.
“Early in the third quarter, we took too many jumpers, but if it’s in the flow of a game, there are certain guys who I want to take that shot,” Barbour said. “If we’re stagnant and standing around, that’s a tougher shot.”
Two minutes later, a series of plays shifted the momentum back to the Irish in the blink of an eye.
Johns got the ball on a fast break and made a layup while being fouled in the process, but the referees ruled it to be an intentional foul, resulting in two free throws for Johns and the Irish retaining possession. Johns knocked down both free throws and guard Herman Pratt hit a back-door layup off the ensuing inbound play to complete a 6-0 Irish run in 2 seconds of game time.
Mitty held a slim lead through most of the fourth quarter, until Pratt connected on an off-balance floater from the baseline to give the Irish a 56-55 lead with 3:20 remaining in the game.
Mitty took back the lead for good less than 2 minutes later, when Gordon scored on another put-back, and senior guard Jordan White connected on two free throws with 20 seconds remaining to set up Fox’s final shot.
“You always want to protect your own court and the way we battled, it was a big win for us,” said Mitty head coach Tim Kennedy. “After a couple of close losses last week, we needed this one and we stepped up at the end to finish it.”
Other than Fox and Johns, no other Irish players scored in double figures, but Barbour was not dissatisfied with the effort on the road in a hostile environment.
“I was more proud of them after this game than any game we won this year,” Barbour said. “They showed why I love this group. The effort was off the chart and as a coach, you can’t ask for more.”
Aaron Gordon – 31
Thomas Peters – 11
Brandon Abajelo – 10
Neil Vranicar – 4
Three players tied with 2 points
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Taylor Johns – 24
Joshua Fox – 19
Herman Pratt – 7
Tyler Petroni – 5
Two players tied with 2 points