Boys Basketball: Sacred Heart Cathedral a step away from state title game

The Sacred Heart Cathedral starters have been pulled in the fourth quarter of both state playoff games to date, but they'll need 32 minutes of solid play to get past Bishop O'Dowd in the Division III NorCal championship game on Saturday in Sacramento. (Photo by Eric Luis)

By Jeremy Balan

It’s no surprise that the Sacred Heart Cathedral and Bishop O’Dowd boys basketball teams are meeting in the California Interscholastic Federation Division III Northern California regional championship game on Saturday at Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento.

Since the season tipped off, the two teams have been tabbed as the best in the region’s division and neither was truly challenged in the prior two rounds of the tournament.

With all that being said, the game represents the final hurdle for the top-seeded Irish (27-5) before they can reach the state title game.

The Dragons (26-5) have been the north’s representative the past two seasons, but fell short in the state title game both times. O’Dowd won its only state championship in 1981 at the Division I level, but has lost seven straight state title games since.

The Irish won their only state championship in 2009 and lost another in 2006 when they were in Division IV.

“What people lose sight of is how hard it is, first of all to have a good program, and doing that year in and year out,” Sacred Heart coach Darrell Barbour said after the Irish’s lopsided win over 12th-seeded Center in the regional semifinals Tuesday. “It’s not easy and people just assume because you have good players, you’re going to win.”

O’Dowd also knocked the Irish out of the playoffs in the second round of last season’s NorCal playoffs, on Sacred Heart’s home court. The game last season was an upset in terms of seeding (Sacred Heart was the third seed, while O’Dowd was No. 6), but the Dragons were considered by most as the best team in the bracket.

Since then, however, O’Dowd lost standout forward Brandon Ashley on a well-publicized transfer to basketball factory Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., but still had enough of talent to win a North Coast Section championship with relative ease this season.

“Not knowing what happened at Bishop O’Dowd — Ashley did what he needed to do and that’s a personal decision — but it speaks volumes of that coaching staff and those kids,” Barbour said. “Our respect for them is off the charts.”

The winner on Saturday will face the Southern California champion (either top-seeded Alemany of Mission Hills or St. John Bosco of Bellflower) on March 24, but Barbour and the Irish are not taking the opportunity for granted.

“To get to where we are Saturday is a blessing,” Barbour said “Would I want this every year? Of course, but I know how hard it is to do it. When you do get there, you cherish it.”

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26 Comments

  1. Chris says:

    The IRISH are battle tested. They played against better teams than Bishop this season. But for Norcal, this will be their hardest test, no doubt. As long as they play hard and with the same intensity all year they will win. Congrats to Coach Barbour and the kids for representing Sacred Heart and the City of San Francisco on a great season. Go IRISH.

    • JJ says:

      Even if the Irish had a tougher schedule, it doesn’t mean anything now. Missouri came from one of the most battle-tested conferences in the nation, and they just lost to a guy with 1 D1 scholarship offer. Now everyone’s NCAA bracket is messed up. The team that plays the best tomorrow afternoon in the “Battle of the Bay” will move on to the championship game.

  2. Basketball Fan says:

    Congratulations to a team that has played team basketball all season. The way they picked each other up and supported each other through trial and tribulation is a testimony to their team spirit and cohesiveness. I am proud of you, gentlemen, Coach Barbour and the coaching team. Looking forward to a great game Saturday! GO IRISH!!!

    • Chris says:

      I heard thru the Grapevine that Cornell and Columbia University like Josh Fox a lot as well as some other schools On Irish radio, George Devine said Taylor Johns has a lot of interest from University of Portland. I was wondering if anyone can tell me if St. Mary’s, Santa Clara, Pepperdine, USF, or other schools from WAC looking at Fox or Johns or has any interest? I think Fox would do well at St. Mary’s College.

  3. JJ says:

    No public schools in the D3 Final Four. All Catholic schools. Makes me wonder how Catholic High schools get all the talent??

    • George Nguyen says:

      Catholic schools seem to have better facilities and faculty , I guess parents feel more comfortable having their kid at a school where it seems to teach them better than public.

      • JLC says:

        Not true, many public schools have much better education than many Catholic schools, SI and SH are definitely up there for education, but you cannot stereotype that catholic schools are better than public schools in terms of conduct. Many if not most students at Catholic schools are just as bad as students in public schools, even worse.

        • George Nguyen says:

          Well I didn’t make myself clear… I should’ve said in the San Francisco area. Then I said it “Seems” Catholic schools have better faculty and facilities, and that there is better education. The meaning of the word “seem” is to give off an impression of having something, which catholic schools at least in the city honestly do show. As for the stereotyping for conduct you’re probably right about how kids may be as “bad” or “worse”, but I bet you the catholic school sends more of those “bad” and “worse” to college then a public school would.

    • Chris says:

      JJ, Don’t you go to SI? So you answered your own question..lol.

      • JJ says:

        I used to go to SI a while back. I was just curious if the talented players get scholarships, cause I know Catholic high schools give scholarships to worthy students.

    • Lowell House says:

      Jeremy, will you finally post my comment? Its not inflammatory at all, just analysis. This is not cool.

      • jbalan says:

        It’s absolutely inflammatory when you accuse a school of academic fraud.

        • Lowell House says:

          No no no you don’t understand. I’m discussing support. If a kid from Mission is going to fail, its all on him. If the same kid is at SH and he’s an athletic star, they won’t fail him, simple as that. I’m not saying they’ll give him a C when he deserves an F but they will put in a bunch of extra effort (meetings/counselors) and make things easier for him to pass. Its the truth. Public schools teachers don’t feel the same kind of pressure to help star athletes as private school teachers do.

          Anyway look, I’m a AAA athlete, and I’m tired of people speculating on why the Catholic schools have better sports teams when the answer is obvious.

          This is the simple truth. I haven’t attacked anyone personally and I haven’t used any profanity. I can’t believe as a journalism organization you would restrict open discourse. Let the other commenters tear me down if they feel like it.

          • jbalan says:

            You did not explain yourself as well as you did in this comment. The prior comment did not read that way.

            • Lowell House says:

              Fair enough, don’t post my resubmission, I’ll edit it

            • Chris says:

              I think that private schools will obviously do more to help any student because they know their clients’ parent is paying for their education. Private schools care more and will do everything to help you succeed because when you succeed the school succeeds. You get what you pay for right in life.

  4. Ari Gold says:

    I perused the BOD roster and had a chuckle that they have a 4’11 player… Is this a typo? I looked into it some more and this 4’11 guy actually plays and contributes alot… Does this kid run underneath and between the legs of their 6’7 center when high pick is set for him? Luckily, Khalil James is quick enough to keep up with this 4’11 guy.

    • Chris says:

      Do you think Dunbar could keep up with him, Ari? It is funny to me that SI has Dunbar listed at 5’9. The most I give him is 5’7-5’8. I will definitely say he plays much bigger. Height isnt everything but BOD made it work for them. The only thing it proves now is BOD plays as a TEAM as well.

  5. Chris says:

    Basketball fan, I have to agree that the 2011-2012 IRISH basketball plays together as a great cohesive unit. They really do pick each other up and they are all unselfish!! First off, Tapel and Jackson are injured right from the beginning of the season. James, and Otis both under class men have to pull together without Tapel,to come up with great point guard play. When Jackson got hurt, this forced O’Reilly to come off the bench perhaps faster than Coach Barbour wanted to. However, I must say for a 1st year sophomore he has played well and you can see his improvement thru out the season. O’reilly gave either Fox and Johns some time to rest every quarter. When Fox went down, Johns, Pratt, Petroni and Oreilly really picked up the pace in the WCAL championship and the CCS tournament. Having said all this, the most consistent player day in and day out appears to be Pratt. He plays D like a mosquito and he does all the little things well in every game to make the IRISH machine balanced. No matter what happens 2012 IRISH basketball was fun and exciting for San Francisco. Way to go IRISH Basketball, you made all the alumni proud.

  6. josh Weinsten says:

    Here’s how you can watch and listen to the CIF Nor Cal Championship game on March 17th between SHCP and Bishop O’Dowd:

    Listen live on internet radio here at 12pm. http://www.kbcsports.com/live/
    Irish Sports Radio will not be doing the game because SHCP will not pay the rights fees to the CIF.

    Watch the game on TV on tape delay on Comcast Channel 104 at 8pm on Saturday and at 7pm on Sunday.

    Good luck, Irish. Get ’em next year Cats!

    • John Tuvo says:

      Thanks for the info, Josh.

      If one does not have Comcast but instead Direct T.V., where can one watch the SHC-BOD title game?

      • IC Stars says:

        You’ll have to go to Nerney’s house Tuvo. I think he has Comcast.

        • John Tuvo says:

          thanks for the feedbacks guys, must have been a great game today!!
          Would have loved to see it. Might have to trek to Sac next week
          Sounds like the tenacity of the Irish paid off.
          Nerney might be out on the town, it is St. Paddy’s day,

      • merkinworld says:

        comcast only

  7. Big guy 24 says:

    Congrats to the SHC fight’in irish for beating O-Dowd today. Great games by Fox and Pratt and Johns played his butt off. Great job kids, next is an L.A. team, lets go irish!

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