Boys Basketball: Sacred Heart rallies back from daunting deficit to beat Serra in WCAL semis

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior forward Joshua Fox slips through two Serra defenders for a contested layup on Friday at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo. (Photo by Devin Chen)

By Jeremy Balan

SAN MATEO — Early on in Sacred Heart Cathedral’s West Catholic Athletic League semifinal matchup with Serra, The Jungle and the Padres’ defensive pressure were eating the Irish alive.

But after the final buzzer, The Jungle was silent and the Irish were on their way to the WCAL championship game.

Sacred Heart trailed 23-10 after the first quarter, but rallied back to win 58-54 on Friday night at Junipero Serra High School.

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior forward Taylor Johns slams home the final points of the game against Serra on Friday at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo. (Photo by Devin Chen)

Sacred Heart senior forward Taylor Johns, who drew the most scorn from the Serra crowd and struggled to score for most of the game, put in the final four points to break a 54-54 tie.

The first basket came on an assist from fellow senior forward Joshua Fox, who drove into the lane then dished the ball to Johns, who banked in a contested layup to put the Irish (22-4) up 56-54 with 44 seconds remaining.

With Johns struggling offensively, Fox carried the Irish through the middle quarters and finished with a team-high 21 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, but no play was more important as his assist to Johns on the game-winning score.

“I believe in him and we’ve been together for so long, he’s like my brother,” Fox said. “It’s our senior year and we want to end with a bang.”

The bang came on the next Irish possession, after a Serra turnover gave Sacred Heart possession of the ball.

With the Padres (21-5) pressing and looking for a turnover, Johns snuck behind the Serra defense and after the Sacred Heart guards broke the press, Johns got the ball all alone and slammed in a two-handed dunk to seal the Irish victory with 14 seconds left.

Johns also had four blocks, including three on standout Serra forward Henry Caruso in the fourth quarter. Caruso led all scorers with 22 points and had a team-high 10 rebounds.

“It felt really good and it felt good just to make them quiet,” Johns said of the Serra crowd that heckled him from the tip-off. “It was a big shot for me, because I didn’t have a good game offensively.”

Serra appeared to go for the steal on the final Sacred Heart possession instead of fouling to send one of the Irish guards to the free throw line and once Johns got the ball, it was too late.

“The goal was to try and get a 5 [second] count and then try to get a trap and a 10 [second] count,” said Serra head coach Chuck Rapp. “As soon as the ball got over halfcourt, we wanted to foul. We gambled and it didn’t pay off.”

Johns may have put the finishing touches on the win, but it was Fox that almost single-handedly brought the Irish back in the game. The senior scored nine points in the second quarter to help the Irish cut the Serra lead to 32-26 at the half.

Serra junior forward Henry Caruso goes up for a layup against Sacred Heart Cathedral on Friday at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo. (Photo by Devin Chen)

“He realized that he had to be a little bit more aggressive, because we were struggling,” said Sacred Heart head coach Darrell Barbour. “The beauty of it is that I didn’t even have to tell him. No one had to tell him he had to step up. He could see how the game was going and he took it upon himself.”

Sacred Heart took its first lead at 33-32 with 6:36 remaining in the third quarter, after a pair of free throws from senior guard Tyler Petroni, but the lead changed hands six times after that.

“These are two good teams in the WCAL and everyone in the WCAL makes a run,” Rapp said. “I knew they were going to come back and once they were over us, I knew we would come back. It’s just a tough loss.”

As well as the Irish played in the final three quarters, the first may have been their worst quarter of the season. Serra’s trapping pressure defense overwhelmed the young Sacred Heart guards, and the Irish committed six turnovers and missed their first five shots from the floor.

“We need our point guards to play better,” Barbour said. “I don’t care what level you play at, you have to get good point guard play. You can have four other great players on the floor, but that point guard has to manage the team. When they settled down, our team played better.”

Sacred Heart moves on to the championship game on Saturday night at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, where top-seeded Mitty and two-time defending WCAL Player of the Year Aaron Gordon await. The Irish dropped both regular-season games to the Monarchs this season, including a overtime heartbreaker in the league finale last Saturday.

“I’m always into what we do. It’s how I coach and it’s what I believe in,” Barbour said. “If we execute, it will be another great game. Our margin of error is much less than theirs, because [Gordon] is such a great player. We don’t have to play perfect, but we can’t have big lulls like we had tonight.”

Scoring Summary

Sacred Heart Cathedral
Joshua Fox – 21
Taylor Johns – 11
Khalil James – 8
Herman Pratt – 6
Two players tied with 5 points

Serra
Henry Caruso – 22
Andre Miller – 12
Jason Barsocchini – 8
Josaf Zamora – 5
Stephen Grosey – 3

Here is another bonus video from our friend George Nguyen and Yay Area’s Finest.

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19 Comments

  1. GCJ 01 says:

    Glad to see SHC didn’t give up when they were down. In the end, they were rewarded. Now they’re off to face Mitty for the third time this year. Could the third time be the charm? My pick, just like it was the last time, is with SHC. I think they’ve figured out what they need to do to finally beat Mitty.

    • IC Stars says:

      I saw that 23-10 score and thought “not again”. Irish outscored them at their place by 17 points the rest of the way which is sweet revenge for that debacle last season.

  2. JJ says:

    I always enjoy the bonus videos from YayArea’sFinest. The senior leadership won the game for SHC. It was the team with more heart that won the game. Imagine if Zach Tapel was not out for the season. I think he wouldn’t have crumbled under pressure during the 1st quarter Serra barrage, like the young sophs did. However, the SHC sophs didn’t let the 1st quarter bother them, maintained their composure, and they played 10x better in the 2nd half. Both Josh & Taylor were clutch for the Fightin’ Irish.

    What were the SHC fans chanting after the game? “We can’t hear you”???? Clapclapclap ??

    • Ari Gold says:

      @JJ… surprised you haven’t referenced Henry Caruso as a young aggressive Troy Murphy look-a-like.

      • JJ says:

        Nope, but Deondre Otis looks like Bow Wow, Pratt looks like Lil Wayne, and Taylor Johns looks like a frenchman “Air France”. Joshua Fox looks like THE ROCK’s son.

  3. dakyne says:

    video of Sacred Heart Cathedral vs. Junipero Serra, WCAL semi finals on February 17, 2012. http://youtu.be/3CRP9xqoWQw Great game.

    • JJ says:

      Thanks for this video. After careful review, the 2nd foul by Taylor Johns was indeed a foul. He hit the guy on the wrist. The whistle was blown extremely late, that’s why I thought it was a suspicious foul. The refs called a pretty good game, although they missed a couple, which is not surprising.

  4. basketball fan says:

    What I love about this SHCP team is their heart and composure. There were a few games this season where they could have crumbled when behind but they focused and stayed in the game. Total team players! Kudos to Josh for just playing the game and carrying his team on his back. Let’s go Irish! Beat Mitty! Looking forward to an awesome game tonight.

    • merkinworld says:

      it starts with the coach. he is cool as a cucumber. he doesn’t blow up. the kids see no panic in their coach, and they don’t panic.

  5. DJ Whiz says:

    Great game SH , way to lead the boys Josh , all the best against Mitty

  6. SHC fan says:

    Great game!! The Irish played a very good game after that 1st Q Love how the young guys stay in the game and played so much better!! After slowing down!! Fox showed that he is the leader of this team and he was not going to let his team
    Lose last nite!!!Should be a great game to nite!!! SHC by 2

  7. wcal says:

    Johns is a great D1 football athlete who is a good high school bb player. Trying to figure out what college bb level he or his people think he will play at.

    • JJ says:

      If he was really a D1 football player, there would’ve been scouts at his football games when he was a junior. I think you have it backwards. He’s a basketball player, who happened to dabble a little in football. With that being said, if he could bulk up and put on 15 pounds, I think he could be an all-pro tight end in the NFL.

      • wcal says:

        Yo JJ, there were scouts! Let me know when he has a bonafide BB scollie offer.

        • JJ says:

          If the basketball thing doesn’t work as far as the NBA, I’m pretty sure he has the talent to play pro ball overseas. Also, if he wants to still play in the NFL, he can still try out for a team; I think Jimmy Graham for the New Orleans Saints didn’t play college football, but he’s an all-pro. Also, Antonio Gates for the Chargers didn’t play college football neither (also an all-pro).

  8. merkinworld says:

    not to be overlooked, but sh got solid bench minutes from liam o’reiily. with johns on the bench saddled with two fouls in the 2nd qtr the kid hit a huge 3 and also got a nice offensive rebound putback as sh slowly got themselves back into the game.

  9. City Lights says:

    Great win! CAN’T WAIT for tonight! Go Cats, Go Irish!!

  10. SHC Fan says:

    Taylor will be A D-player trust me!! And it will be in basketball-His what they look
    For as a coach-up side is big-one year of red shirt and he. Can
    Help
    Someone as a small forward-and he is not a football player!! Trying that for the time he did might have cost him as a basketball player!! That was 6 more months that he miss in the gym!! Just think if his jumper was better and had a lil better handles!!

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