By Bonta Hill
In the quarterfinal round of the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs, Sacred Heart Cathedral’s boys basketball team was forced to play without leading scorer Joshua Fox.
That turned out to not be a problem for the Irish.
Without Fox, Sacred Heart breezed past Burlingame with a 56-39 win on Saturday at St. Ignatius Prep.
Sacred Heart (23-5) forced 17 turnovers and held the Panthers (19-10) to 24 percent shooting from the floor, as the top-seeded Irish advanced to the semifinals, where they will take on West Catholic Athletic League rival Valley Christian.
“With a week off, our kids practiced hard and each practice during the week got better and better,” said Sacred Heart head coach Darrell Barbour. “[Practice] is nothing like playing a game, and having that much time off, we had moments where we were scratching our heads trying to figure out what was going on. But [there’s] nothing like winning and moving on, and we can’t wait for the chance to play again.”
With Fox on the bench in street clothes due to an injured ankle he suffered in the WCAL championship game last week against Mitty, fellow senior forward Taylor Johns picked up the offensive slack with a game-high 18 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.
Johns scored ten points in the third quarter, including two shots from 3-point range. His second 3-pointer from the right wing punctuated a 12-2 Sacred Heart run, giving the Irish a commanding 40-16 lead with 3:27 left in the quarter.
“Taylor can [hit jump shots] and I told him at halftime [that] he was trying to do too much in the first half,” Barbour said. “With Josh not in there, he was hesitating too much in the first half on his shot. We know he can hit those shots because he does it in practice for us.”
After Burlingame scored the first points of the game on a 3-pointer from junior guard Connor Haupt, Sacred Heart led the rest of the way and the Panthers connected on just 16 percent of their shots from the floor in the first half. Burlingame only hit one field goal in the second quarter and was outscored 13-3.
“We didn’t shoot well, but I’d say Sacred Heart’s defense had a lot to do with it,” said Burlingame head coach Jeff Dowd. “We knew it was going to be a tough battle, but obviously they’re a great team that’ll probably take the Division III championship.”
The biggest concern for Sacred Heart going forward is the health of Fox, who Barbour classified as day-to-day.
“Hopefully we’ll get Josh back on the court Monday, have him shoot some free throws and go from there,” Barbour said. “We were hoping to win today and get to Wednesday, with the possibility of him hopefully playing, but we’re not taking anything for granted and we’ll continue to monitor him daily.”
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Taylor Johns – 18
Liam O’Reilly – 7
Tyler Petroni – 7
Herman Pratt – 7
DeOndre Otis – 6
Frankie Ferrari – 10
Connor Haupt – 6
Alex Otus – 6
Neil DeQuant – 5
Adam Feinberg – 4