By Jeremy Balan
The Sacred Heart Cathedral boys basketball team sleepwalked through the first half against rival St. Ignatius on Tuesday and still took a seven-point lead into the break.
Then the Big Two woke up.
Standout senior forwards Taylor Johns and Joshua Fox scored 14 of Sacred Heart’s 16 points in the third quarter and the Wildcats never challenged again in a 57-45 Irish win in the first round of the West Catholic Athletic League playoffs.
Johns and Fox scored 17 points apiece to lead all scorers, and Johns finished with a game-high 12 rebounds and three blocks to beat the Wildcats (10-15) for the third time this season.
“In the locker room, coach told us to calm down and stay poised and that’s what we did,” Johns said. “We weren’t hitting our shots [in the first half]. Everybody was cold.”
If the Irish (21-4) were cold in the first half, the Wildcats were downright frigid.
St. Ignatius shot just over 17 percent from the floor in the first half and on its first nine possessions, had three missed shots and six turnovers, allowing the Irish to open up a 10-0 lead.
“We were trying to slow it down and make it our pace,” said St. Ignatius head coach Tim Reardon. “By halftime, we kinda got where we wanted to be and in the third quarter, [Sacred Heart] just shot the [heck] out of the ball.”
While Johns and Fox ruled the third quarter, Sacred Heart guard Herman Pratt locked the game down in the fourth.
The junior went scoreless through three quarters, then scored 10 points in the fourth and guarded shifty St. Ignatius sophomore point guard Trevor Dunbar for most of the game.
Just as St. Ignatius appeared to make some inroads when senior guard Nick Johnson hit a 3-pointer to cut the Irish lead to 52-42 with 1:35 remaining, Pratt buried a 3-pointer of his own on Sacred Heart’s next possession to extend the Irish lead again.
“He plays so hard and it’s contagious,” Sacred Heart head coach Darrell Barbour said of Pratt. “Whatever he does doesn’t surprise me. I’m just amazed and blessed to be able to coach a kid that plays that hard all the time.”
With the game largely in-hand, the Wildcats caught fire in the final quarter and hit 4-of-6 shots from behind the 3-point arc. Two of those 3s came from Johnson, who finished tied for the team lead with junior forward Stephen Domingo. Each scored 11 points, but Johnson did it on 10 fewer shots.
“We have to do a better job of getting Nick the ball,” Reardon said. “In the second half of the season, he’s been shooting 45 or 50 percent [from 3-point range]. He’s kept us in a couple and this could have been a blowout if he wasn’t hitting 3s.”
The third-seeded Irish advance to face second-seeded Serra in the semifinals on the road Friday. Sacred Heart lost at Serra 60-57 in the regular season.
“I wouldn’t want it any different” Barbour said. “Last time we played down there we got a tough loss and it’s a great environment to play in, and our kids thrive in that kind of environment.”
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Joshua Fox – 17
Taylor Johns – 17
Herman Pratt – 10
Khalil James – 7
Two players tied with 3 points
Stephen Domingo – 11
Nick Johnson – 11
Trevor Dunbar – 9
Albert Waters – 6
Two players tied with 4 points