Boys Basketball: Sacred Heart Cathedral rolls over Center in NorCal semifinals

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior forward Taylor Johns (right) drives past a Center defender on Tuesday at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep. (Photo by Eric Luis)

By Jeremy Balan

If its blowout win over Miramonte in the second round of the California Interscholastic Federation Division III state playoffs on Saturday didn’t validate the Sacred Heart Cathedral boys basketball team’s top seed, its performance on Tuesday sure did.

The Irish played one of their sloppiest games of the season, committing 21 turnovers, but still coasted to a 69-51 win over visiting Center of Antelope in the Northern California regional semifinals.

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior forward Joshua Fox goes up for a layup against Center on Tuesday at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep. (Photo by Eric Luis)

Sacred Heart (27-5) advances to face second-seeded Bishop O’Dowd in the Northern California championship game on Saturday at Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento.

The Irish led 36-26 at the half, but came out of the locker room inspired, outscored the Cougars (23-9) 20-6 in the third quarter and opened up their largest lead of the game at 62-34 with 6:14 remaining in the fourth quarter.

“To be honest, I was not satisfied with Taylor [Johns] and [Joshua Fox] in the first half,” said Sacred Heart head coach Darrell Barbour. “I thought they did some things out of character and it led to their play. Most of it was focus. They weren’t where they needed to be and they are our leaders. They did some things that were uncharacteristic and they heard about it at halftime.”

The pair of standout senior forwards combined to score 29 points, but with intermittent malfunction on the offensive end, the Irish defense was the difference, especially in the crucial third quarter.

Led by a standout defensive performance from junior guard Herman Pratt and six combined blocks from Fox and Johns, the Irish held Center to just 2-of-11 shooting in the third quarter and forced eight turnovers.

“Our defense triggered our offense and that third quarter and it started with Herman and Khalil [James],” Barbour said.

Three of the turnovers came on steals from Pratt, who guarded standout Center guard Christopher Smith and limited the senior to just 13 points. Smith came into the game averaging over 21 points per game and scored 24 points in a first-round win over Mission last week.

“He has something in him – he doesn’t know how good he can be,” Barbour said of Pratt. “He has something that just burns to be good and he’s a competitor. He does it every day – that effort, every day.”

The Irish also got a lift from another stellar shooting performance by shooting guard Tyler Petroni. The senior scored a game-high 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor and 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range.

Sacred Heart Cathedral junior guard Khalil James drives past a Center defender on Tuesday at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep. (Photo by Eric Luis)

“He makes those shots, then misses two free throws in a row after a technical,” Barbour said. “Early in the year, he would get down on himself. Now he can rebound from those missed shots and go out and make the next shot. That’s been his transition from December.”

Even though Barbour removed all of the Sacred Heart starters midway through the fourth quarter and the game was in hand for nearly the entire second half, Center head coach Ray Gagnon focused on the performance of the game’s referees after the game.

“I hate to do this, because I tell my kids not to do this, but it’s too bad the kids can’t determine the outcome of the game,” Gagnon said. “You saw it. Even when our guy obviously charged their guy. It was bad. I’m sorry, our kids didn’t have a chance tonight. If the game is called fairly, it’s competitive.”

The Irish now shift their focus to the championship game against O’Dowd, a team that beat them decisively in the state tournament last season.

“We know we’re going to play a very good team,” Barbour said. “The ball is going to go up on Saturday and we’re going to see who the best team is.”

Scoring Leaders

Sacred Heart Cathedral
Tyler Petroni – 17
Joshua Fox – 16
Taylor Johns – 13
Herman Pratt – 8
Two players tied with 4 points

Christopher Smith – 13
Kenneth Parker – 10
Myles Hunter – 8
Marcus Horton – 5
Three players tied with 4 points

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  1. JJ says:

    I wasn’t at the game, but it looked like a good sized crowd, based on the pictures. I don’t know, but were the refs suspect because why would the Center head coach say something like that……??

  2. Don L. says:

    Interesting comment about the refs from the Center coach. Most regular fans probably won’t realize is that the normal refs in the City that work WCAL games were probably not working this particular game. Crews of three officials from the various groups serving Northern California are nominated than then the CIF selects the ones to officiate the games. I believe these games (like all other high school games) are assigned well in advance of the the opponents being determined. While I don’t know the assigning process, one would assume the CIF would try to give any team have a “home referee” advantage.

    Since I wasn’t at the game, I don’t know how the referees actually were. But every group of officials operate a little differently. Some may call it tight and it sounds like the referees may have called things a little too loose for the Center coach’s liking.

    One interesting tidbit from the State playoff assigning process that changed in the past few years (I assume it’s still in place this season). In the past, individual referees from the various groups were nominated. The CIF would select the referees that were the most qualified and form up threesomes from all the referees.

    The problem (as I understood it) was that having different referees from different groups come together for the first time and officiate a consistent game was a little difficult. Just like having chemistry with your teammates is important to playing basketball, officiating is the same as well.

    So, there was a change for to have crews of three officials from each officiating group nominated (as I noted above). The State would just select the crews to work games instead of individuals. The assumption is that games would go better as the crews should have worked a lot together prior to the state playoff games. Obviously, the Center coach may not have agreed! :)

    I forget if this process still applies to State championship games though.

    • jbalan says:

      I’m almost positive these were not local officials.

      • WCAL Alum says:

        Don L. Correct, the CIF goes to great pain to pre-select officials. They are nominated months before and are observed prior to sectionals. Yes, they also go to great pain to make sure in NorCals to have officials from association outside of both teams area, to give the impression of objectivity. With that though comes issues on THREE referees from three separate associations from calling the same game. These referees meet two hours before the game and try to hash out a plan. It is important the that head referee take the lead and make sure by end of first quarter they are calling the same game.

        I would not be surprised that now they do pick officials from the same association who are comfortable working as a team and know each other tendencies.

        I think officials are pre-selected through the semis. Once it gets to semi finals, these referees are looked at again, and I believe at this point the officials are selected for NorCal/SoCal finals. Then again, officials from this group are selected for State Chamipionship.

        Again, different associations call game differently. THats not bad, its just a fact. For instance the three groups that works WCAL allow a lot of contact; the OAL is the same way; that might be the case for other associations.

        Congratulations to SHC and best of luck in NorCal Finals.

        • Crusader 88 says:

          @ WCAL Alum- You are correct about the assigning process to a point. The crews that work the games are from the same association. However, the crews are assigned through the finals. So a crew can work all four rounds. Then the CIF, selects crews to work the State Finals. Since there are 10 games, its usually 5 North crews and 5 South crews that work those games.

      • SF_Mikey says:

        Personally I have never seen any of those referees before (primarily attend WCAL games in the City) so I doubt they are locals. For the Center coach to pull the ref card is interesting as I thought the refs were bad both ways. There were some dubious offensive fouls called, muggings with no foul called followed by ticky tack touch fouls a few second later!

        Center was a flyweight going against a heavyweight and they had zero chance beating SHC last night even if they would have had three Antelope alums referee the game.

  3. Keep it real says:

    Yes they all were new Official never Did a SHC game all year!!! And anyone who was at that game would no that SH was the better team!! Went up 18 in the first half to let them
    Cut it to 6!! Than went up 27 at one
    Point and the 4th!!! Now it’s time to see if this group can win playing a very good BOD team!! The winner of this game should win state!!! Nice win SHC and JB I hope you have your Coach of the year in Coach B-His team come to play every game and they play the game the Right way!!!And this is his 3 nor-cal and 4years at SHC-Great Job Coach B and the Shc Basketball family!!!!

  4. Basketball Fan says:

    My understanding is that the refs come, in teams, from other sections when we get to this part of the run. They do not have connection with either of the teams playing. Also I was at the game and I could sense the coach’s frustration (Center) from the beginning. He was constantly standing up and in the ear of any ref that passed his way. When he got the “T”, he had just been talked to, and then kept talking. At least the “T” put the seatbelt on him. I know tensions/feelings are high at this part of the season but we can’t put the blame on the refs even though they are the easy target. Congrats to both teams for reaching this part of the run and GO IRISH!

  5. merkinworld says:

    Taylor Johns and Josh Fox both had two fouls early in the 2nd qtr. At one point in the 1st half SH had 6 team fouls called on them, and Center had two. Agree that their coach was frustrated, especially with the SH defense. H Pratt completely shut down the Smith kid, who had scored 30 and 29 pts in his two previous nor-cal games. The long over the top passes that worked against Mission, didn’t work last nite.Center lost to a better team.

  6. Big guy 24 says:

    SHC is playing good ball right now with all there players. Yes of course the main 2 are Fox and Johns playing good at this time but the other kids are doing a solid job to help the irish be a good team. Pratt-Petroni-D.O.-Kahilil are playing good basketball and making the right moves at this time. B.O.D will be there best challenge of the year as they too have good players without the Ashley kid they are still solid. Irish be ready and continue to represent the SHC families with pride…Good luck kids.

  7. Ari Gold says:

    “our kids didn’t have a chance tonight”…. ummmm yah!?!?! youre playing #1 seed SHC and youre a #12 seed!!!! SHC gives a beatdown to teams from the boonies like Center and Enterprise. Just be happy you made it that far Coach Gagnon.

    Saturday is going to be real tough. Hopefully SH can execute their gameplan this year versus a Ashley-less Dragon team. BOD simply last year had too much size. This year they still are big, but having no Ashley does even things out.

    So happy DLS didnt make it. Can not stand watching a D1 final where the score is 42-35. I love excellent defense but thats just scoring that low in a state final is just ridiculous.

    Where does SH stand now? Really behind Mitty and Salesian as they beat that Jesuit team that just defeated DLS last night.

    • IC Stars says:

      Irish clobbered that Jesuit team that beat BOD by ten points in pre-season. Go Irish!

      • Whatever says:

        Exactly…pre-season. Game was played back in December. Both teams have improved since then and I don’t believe the score would be similar if SHC played Jesuit again (which won’t happen obviously).

        • IC Stars says:

          So Flyin’ WHAT? If (insert school name here)’s football team beat De La Salle in pre-season, you’d be bragging for years.

    • Josh Weinstein says:

      Going to have to agree with Ari on this one regarding the “our kids didn’t have a chance tonight” comment. Welcome to competition from the WCAL, especially a team of the caliber of SHCP. They are clicking right now and should win Nor Cal over O’Dowd to avenge their playoff loss to them last year and win state. Although, does anyone have any idea how strong the So Cal champion will be? Good luck Irish.

      • SF_Mikey says:

        The SoCal champion will come from either Alemany #1 seed or St John Bosco #6 seed (no common opponents with SHC that I can see). Alemany is a high scoring team with a D1 recruit (committed to Nevada) Marqueze Coleman (SF – 6’4″) who averages over 21 points a game and a Sr PG who averages over 18 PPG.

        Information from Maxpreps:

        Alemany Overall: 31-4-0 National Rank: 76 State (CA) Rank: 13

        St John Bosco Overall: 26-7-0 National Rank: 233 State (CA) Rank: 29

        Sacred Heart Cathedral Overall: 27-5-0 National Rank: 52 State (CA) Rank: 8

        Bishop O’Dowd Overall: 27-5-0 National Rank: 157 State (CA) Rank: 22

        Hey the Irish play Bishop O’Dowd on St Patrick’s Day, what could go wrong???

  8. Richmond Wrecker says:

    Just imagine what this season could’ve been if Tapel and Jackson weren’t injured – undefeated perhaps?

    • JJ says:

      SHC wouldn’t have gone undefeated. When was the last time a WCAL team went undefeated in league play? Besides, Khalil James is a good point guard, as well as the back-up D. Otis, but very doubtful a WCAL will go undefeated. Maybe next year, Mitty might go undefeated, but it will be a tough task since all the teams will be gunning for them.

      • JJ says:

        Actually, St Francis went undefeated in WCAL 3 years ago, but didn’t even win State championship.

      • Irish Fan 2 says:

        WIthout AG32 at Mitty next year, Mitty will lose at least 2 games. The class of 2015 at SHCP is have a huge chance of going undefeated especially after have their A team going 20-1.David Parsons and Omari Brown(also a freshman) have so much talent. I look forward to watching the class of 2015 as seniors.
        The girls also have a chance of winning the WCAL with their undefeated record.The class of 2015 at SHC will be fun to watch when they are seniors.

        • JJ says:

          Isn’t AG32 only a junior? So unless he transfers to one of those basketball high school like Findlay Prep or Oak Hill Academy, he should be back in the WCAL. The SI girls class of 2015 looks more intimidating than the SHC girls basketball class of 2015. Even if David Parsons has alot of talent, the guy isn’t 6-4 and won’t be slamming the ball from the FT line like in NBA Jams. Plus, a stud from the Class of 2016 and 2017 will arrive on a WCAL campus somewhere and probably be better than anyone in the Class of 2015, so I doubt SHC will go undefeated anytime soon. Even the best basketball team in the state of California isn’t even undefeated.

          • Chris says:

            JJ, the Irish will not go undefeated it is fair to say, but it is also fair to say the class of 2015 for the Irish basketball team looks pretty impressive. Not so much of the size of the players but the fact that incoming class play well together, that is what a TEAM is. I rather have a TEAM than one or two studs anyday. Besides, Im sure the class of 2016 will have some talent too.

            • M Air J says:

              Frosh success usually does not translate into Varsity success. Last year SI and Riordan finished 1-2 in league I believe and look at their Varsity programs this year. As I’ve mentioned before, bigs are what usually win in WCAL play. The year Saint Francis went undefeated, they had a D1 guard in Johnson who is 6’2 and a kid who also played college ball (low D1 I believe) in Grant who is 6’4. They are the exception as usually a team with a dominant post wins league. Over the last decade or so the teams with the best bigs have won out. Mitty had the Gordon brothers plus Chiverton (6″5) at guard, SH has the twin towers currently plus Greene and Brown, Riordan had Camacho and Jones, etc. I saw SH frosh play one time this year and they had a bunch of guards with Parsons being the best of the bunch. The team with the best bigs will do the best in league play and beyond.

              Chris I disagree with your theory, I’d rather have 2 big studs and build a team around them. Guards are a dime a dozen, it’s rare to find talented big men in this area, specifically SF.

              • Chris says:

                M and J, Just remember you just mentioned BIG, there were a lot of teams that SH played that were BIGGER than them this year. You mean BIG athletic boys…not just BIG. However, if you do not have BIG athletic boys you better have great ball handlers and shooters because they make the rest of the team. Look at Riordan and SI this year, what did they do, losing record right, and SI has a few BIGS.

          • Josh Weinstein says:

            SHCP’s Class of 2015 girls (the frosh team) is pretty talented but SI moved 8 of their freshmen up to the varsity and JVs this season. Center Josie Little (2nd team all WCAL) and forward Sydney Raggio were both starters on the varsity. At times the WCAL champion and 21-1 (the one loss to SCHP in a preseason tourney) SI girls JV team played all 5 frosh on the floor. Now when the SI class of 2015 are seniors, Little and Raggio will have 4 years varsity experience and the five frosh if they all make the jump next season will have 3 years of varsity experience. Plus I think all 8 of those girls play AAU.

        • Crusader 88 says:

          Gordon is only a junior, unless he’s transferring out to some prep school, he’ll be back!

          • M Air J says:

            Re-Read my post Chris, I said dominant bigs in the post ( usually a team with a dominant post wins league) . Riordan had NO bigs and SI’s were not dominant at all. You proved my point by using SI and Riordan as examples. Riordan had very good guards in Harvey, Mabrey and SI had arguably the best PG in Dunbar and they finished in the bottom of the WCAL because they had no post presence.

            • Chris says:

              Yes, you can still win games if you do not have dominant BIGS. As long as SH beats SI and Riordan is the most important thing because Im only talking about the city first. Everything else is a bonus.

      • Richmond Wrecker says:

        I only mentioned undefeated as a possibility because each loss to Mitty was by 3 points, the Bellarmine loss was by 1, I believe, and I’m not sure how much they lost to Serra by, but I’m sure it was reasonably close. Considering Tapel was all-WCAL (Honorable Mention) last year and Jackson received significant minutes as a sophomore, the team would’ve at the very least been incredibly deep.

  9. JJ says:

    Whatever the case will be, SHC will have their hands full on Saturday afternoon. O’Dowd has 2 D1 players on their roster, and their guards can get up and slam. The freshman center just did a windmill dunk in their last game, last night. I think the winner of the SHC-O’Dowd game will be the team who makes more 3’s, but SHC will have to do that in an NBA Arena that will be 90% empty, instead of the friendly confines of Harrigan Court.

  10. Josh Weinstein says:

    Anyone know where the game will be streamed on internet radio or TV? Irish Sports Radio or KBCSports? Anyone?

  11. Mike on the Mic says:…Listen to the wonderful play-by-play and analyzing by Ben Schneider and yours truly, Michael Smith aka Mike on the Mic! :)

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