Boys Basketball: Sacred Heart takes down El Camino for fourth-straight CCS title

Sacred Heart Cathedral junior guard Khalil James (right) tries to push past El Camino junior Michael Smith on Saturday at Santa Clara University. (Photo by Doug Ko)

By Jeremy Balan

As the three-time defending Central Coast Section champions with most of its core of players returning, it was assumed all season that the Sacred Heart Cathedral boys basketball team was the best squad in Division III.

That assumption became a reality on Saturday at Santa Clara University.

The top-seeded Irish led 25-15 after the first quarter and 45-24 at the half against second-seeded El Camino and cruised to a 71-53 win to clinch their fourth-consecutive CCS title.

Sacred Heart Cathedral junior guard Herman Pratt skies for a rebound against El Camino on Saturday at Santa Clara University. (Photo by Doug Ko)

Standout Sacred Heart senior forward Joshua Fox returned for his first game since sustaining an ankle injury in the West Catholic Athletic League championship game two weeks ago to score eight points and collect a game-high 13 rebounds, but with fellow senior forward Taylor Johns in foul trouble throughout, the Irish guards ruled the afternoon.

Sacred Heart guards Tyler Petroni, Khalil James and Herman Pratt all scored in double figures, led by Petroni’s team-high 17 points, and the Irish (25-5) shot just over 58 percent from the floor and 60 percent from 3-point range in the first half to take a commanding lead.

“Everybody here saw that it wasn’t the big guys. It was the guards shooting lights out,” said El Camino head coach Archie Junio. “We were banking on them mission some shots, but they weren’t missing many shots from the outside.”

Petroni, who missed Sacred Heart’s semifinal win over Valley Christian due to an illness, shot 7-of-11 from the floor and 3-of-6 from 3-point range.

“People look at him from a physical standpoint an think he can’t play, but he’s a tough kid and he can play,” said Sacred Heart head coach Darrell Barbour. “A lot of people can overlook him because he’s quiet, doesn’t say much and is unassuming, but at the end of the game, he’s kicked your tail.”

El Camino junior guard Michael Smith poured in a game-high 23 points and senior guard Anthony Knight added 14, but the Colts (25-5) could not cut the deficit below 13 points in the second half.

Smith and Knight played their parts, but the Colts were without junior point guard Elijah White, who is averaging 15.5 points per game this season. White was reportedly suspended from the school this week for setting off a fire alarm.

“We needed our full arsenal today and unfortunately we didn’t have it,” Junio said. “Even with Elijah, we might not have stood a chance anyway. We needed to be clicking on all cylinders and we weren’t today.”

The strength of Fox’s ankle has been a topic of constant discussion for two weeks and the senior came down awkwardly on occasion against El Camino, but showed some explosiveness getting into the air as Sacred Heart’s primary rebounder.

Sacred Heart senior forward Joshua Fox drives past an El Camino defender on Saturday at Santa Clara University. (Photo by Doug Ko)

“I’m just happy to be out on the court and out there with everybody. I’m tired and I’m out of shape, but it was still fun,” Fox said. “It’s still kinda sore and I’m not 100 percent yet – not even 90 yet – but everyone is helping me on defense. Everything is so new to me, it feels like I’m learning the game all over again.”

Fox will likely need to play a key part if the Irish plan to make a run for the Division III state championship. Some have declared the Irish as a favorite in the division, but Barbour’s focus is still on the immediate future.

“I don’t talk about it.” Barbour said, when asked about the potential of a state title. “Every day we just try to get better. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m not a fortune teller, but this team is different – not because of the talent, but how they play together. You don’t get that every year, so we’re going to ride this out and see how far we can go with it.”

Barbour may deflect talk of a state championship, but the Irish players are explicit with their intentions.

“We’re looking to go all the way in our last year,” Petroni said. “It always feels good to win, but we just want to keep going, because our next loss is our last game.”

“We knew we should have got this one,” Fox added. “Now we can check this off, go on to NorCals and state, hopefully. Our new record is 0-0. We haven’t won anything now.”

Scoring Summary

Sacred Heart Cathedral
Tyler Petroni – 17
Herman Pratt – 13
Khalil James – 12
Joshua Fox – 8
Taylor Johns – 6

El Camino
Michael Smith – 23
Anthony Knight – 14
Jalen Bitanga – 12
Matt Azzopardi – 2
Alex Huerta – 2

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  1. Basketball Fan says:

    Again, it is all about team. The young men of SHCP have shown on a consistent basis this season their ability to pick each other up, adjust and work as a team for the goal of winning a game. Congrats to the SHCP men! Looking forward to the next game.

  2. Kevin Lee says:

    I am a fan of the Colts and was disappointed to hear their point guard was suspended for such a silly prank before such an important game. I think EC could have done better if they would have been prepared for the change in lineup but the night before is hard to swallow. I greatly respect the effort of the boys especially Michael Smith and Anthony Knight along with Bitanga. They did not give up. SH put a lot of defense on Smith and he was still able to get 23 points. He was on the boards and showed some great talent with his driving, three pointers and rebounds that he turned into points. I know more will be written about SH but I want to give major credit to a team people would have never thought would go this far. Can’t wait to see them sy again next week. Their guard will be back next week and hopefully will stay away from fire alarms.

    • SF says:

      Would not have mattered if he played, SHC would have dominated regardless.

      • JJ says:

        How do you know for sure EC would’ve lost even if White was in the lineup? I’ve seen guys get like 40 pts before and made 8 3-pointers in a game. Although rare, it could’ve still happened. Not to mention White’s quickness, he would’ve got to the shooter faster to alter SHC’s shots. Just by looking at the boxscore, the guy who replaced White in the lineup probably didn’t do much to help EC’s chances to win. I’m guessing he either scored 0 points or 2 pts, while E. White avg. close to 16 ppg.

      • SF says:

        JB two SF? Should I change my name?

    • merkinworld says:

      EC played hard. They take it to the paint and crash the boards hard. They can win a game in nor-cal if they are full strength and don’t get a lousy seed. Good Luck to both teams next week.

    • Mickey Blue Eyes says:

      @Kevin Lee: Pulling a fire Alarm at school is not a harmless prank. That is actually a criminal act. He is just lucky he was suspended from school and not being criminally prosecuted right now…Pulling false alrams can endanger many lives and it is no laughing matter. It is serious offense and a waste of taxpayer money to have the fire department respond to a false alarm. Just happy nobody was hurt

      • tasty says:

        You are absolutely right on that, it’s not a prank but a serious crime. What I’d heard was Elijah was playing in the hall way with another kid on their way to the next period. Elijah used his back-pack to hit the kid and he dug and hit the fire alarm instead. He tried to explain that it was an accident but some other kids said it was on purpose.

        • Mickey Blue Eyes says:

          If this is true why is the kid swinging backpacks at another kid. I mean sure OK he hit the fire alarm so he says but now what happens if the backpack hits the kid and rendered him unconscious? Will he get to play because he is the star of the basketball team, I sure hope not. What all that were involved need to know is PRACTICE COMMON SENSE…Obviously it was not practiced in this sense. Sorry, but for this to be labeled a “silly prank” I find totally insulting and just plain STUPID that someone would think an act such as this is harmless…

          • tasty says:

            Ok, calm down now. Just saying what I’d heard but not for certain if it’s true. You also have to realize that kids do things with out thinking ’till after it happen. Fire alarm, hitting someone else with an object, they’re all dangerous, but again, kids don’t realize how danger it is ’till it happen. I’m over 20 under 25 and was a teenager once. I’m sure you were once too. Everyone handle things different ways. If you are one of the perfect one, than goodles to you.

  3. JJ says:

    Not only does SHC have a better inside game than SI, they also have better outside shooting, just by looking at the FG%, mainly 3 point FG%. I know SI’s FG% from beyond the 3-pt arc was horrible vs El Camino, while SHC’s was great. That’s why SHC is advancing, and SI will be home watching March Madness.

    • SF_Mikey says:

      Not only does SHC have better shooters they have inside threats in Johns and Fox so teams can’t hang onto their outside shooters. SI’s offense or lack thereof is a continuing mystery to me with no rhyme or reason that I can comprehend other than showcasing the individual skills of SD31 and TD10. The Irish play unselfish TEAM basketball and don’t seem to care about stats or auditioning for D1 scholarships only wins and losses. This attitude starts at the top with Johns and Fox and permeates down the roster. I love watching the Irish play and hope they make a run at a State Championship.

  4. Whatever says:

    EC will lose early in NoCals. Too much better competition; teams will be too big.

  5. TM76 says:

    Irish have talented shooters and when they are on like yesterday it is hard to stop them. Hopefully Fox will heal up even more because they will need him for the run to the state championship.

  6. City Lights says:

    Great job Irish! A banner year for the entire athletic program. Titles all over the place. Time to win a state title. Good luck (eventually) against BOD.

  7. DJ Whiz says:

    Congratulations SH and EC for both advancing , wish you both the very best . Josh hope your healing is coming along fine , we will need you BIG time to chase a state title and secure it , good luck young man and may the force be with you . God Bless .

  8. Irish Fan 2 says:

    There is no competition for the Irish until they play against BOD.Everyone plays with heart and the team’s defense is great.Defense leads to offense and if it isnt Tay Bang or Joshie, then its Tyler,Herm,Khlil,D-Otis,Liam even the freshman David.Hes putting up at least two points a game and will be a big star next year.If the Irish had Zach, i believe they could’ve went undefeated. EC had no chance of beating SHC even if they had their best player. There is no I in team and thats who everyone talks about. There is way more than one person to talk about on SHC.Lets Go Irsih and keep playing hard.

    • tasty says:

      Never say never. Anything is possible. When I watched the game live last Saturday online with friends. SH won cause their 3’s were there and EC couldn’t get to it on time. Not sure why their coaches start having EC team play zone when they’d been doing fine with man 2 man. Josh and Tyler both score under 10. That should tell you something about EC. Sometimes things don’t go the way you expect to be. When your 3’s there, it will be there and it all work out that day for SH. EC wasn’t the same that day and they didn’t play well either. #3 wasn’t there and he is also a great defender. Not saying SH is not a great team. All WCC team in my book are great team because they have squats. EC do not have a squat nor good coaches. That’s why their a great team to me. EC go out with what they got and hearts like Lions. Their big 3 are not that big either, their center is not really a factor but #3, #11 and #24 and a help also from batanga, not sure if you guys follow EC when they play because I do (ever since they beat our S.I. team last December) Anyways, there big 3 never come out of the game, they don’t even have any good bench player. It’s a joke to me when they do put their bench in, it’s funny to watch how they get lost in there. Their coaches are even a big joke to me because I don’t think they know what there doing. I believe if EC have a coach that know what there doing, they will be back again in the final for CCS next year. Good luck to both SH and EC playing the State.

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