By Jeremy Balan
LOS ALTOS HILLS – In every meeting with the Sacred Heart Cathedral boys basketball team this season, standout Mitty forward Aaron Gordon has done just enough to beat the Irish late.
He did it again on Saturday in the West Catholic Athletic League championship game, but this time it came with an asterisk.
Gordon scored eight points in the fourth quarter to lead the Monarchs to a 50-47 comeback win over Sacred Heart at Foothill College, but the Irish played without leading scorer Joshua Fox for most of the game.
Fox sustained an ankle injury and left the game late in the first quarter, then tried to return in the second quarter after receiving treatment, but was ultimately pulled by Sacred Heart head coach Darrell Barbour. Fox finished scoreless and had just two rebounds.
“I believe it’s a high-ankle sprain and the trainer from Mitty did a great job of trying to get him back out there, but when he went back out I knew he couldn’t play,” Barbour said. “If I wouldn’t have went to him, he wouldn’t have said anything and would have played, but as a coach and as a father, that kid’s health is more important than anything. He wanted to play, but I wasn’t going to play him – end of story.”
Still, the Irish (22-5) held a 28-22 lead at the half and led for the entire third quarter until the Monarchs tied the game at 34-34 on a buzzer-beating tip-in from sophomore guard Connor Peterson at the end of the third frame.
When Sacred Heart forward Taylor Johns picked up his fourth foul early in the fourth quarter, Gordon attacked the rim without fear of Johns contesting and finished with a game-high 24 points and 12 rebounds.
“That’s what top players do and when you talk about having a will to win, everyone wants to win, but he goes out with extra effort and makes the plays,” Mitty head coach Tim Kennedy said of Gordon. “He always just finds a way.”
Mitty (24-3) took the lead for good at 47-45 on another score from Peterson with 2:05 remaining and Sacred Heart cut the lead to 48-47 after a free throw from junior guard Herman Pratt with 22 seconds left, but Mitty hit two ensuing free throws and a desperate 3-point shot from Sacred Heart junior guard Khalil James missed just before time expired.
With Fox out, a different member of Sacred Heart’s supporting cast picked up the slack in each quarter.
In the second quarter it was reserve sophomore forward Liam O’Reilly scoring six points, in the third it was senior guard Tyler Petroni who scored all six of Sacred Heart’s points in the quarter, and in the fourth it was Pratt who added six points and a had huge offensive rebound in the final 30 seconds to keep the Irish alive.
“I don’t have role players,” Barbour said. “All of these kids are good players and they’ve all gotten better throughout the year. It’s good to see players who don’t normally have that opportunity step up and give us an opportunity to win. My kids played their tails off. What more can you ask for?”
Johns had 10 points and seven rebounds, but was tasked with guarding Gordon throughout and appeared winded in late moments of the game.
The series between the two teams will end this season, with Mitty heading into Division II of the Central Coast Section playoffs and Sacred Heart heading to the D-III tournament. The Monarchs got wins in all three of the games, but only by a combined margin of eight points.
“This is what you want in high school basketball, to compete with the best players and the best teams,” Kennedy said.
Aaron Gordon – 24
Thomas Peters – 7
Connor Peterson – 6
Jordan White – 6
Neil Vranicar – 3
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Tyler Petroni – 11
Taylor Johns – 10
Khalil James – 8
Herman Pratt – 8
Liam O’Reilly – 6