Road to the State Championship: Irish will have hands full with Alemany guards

Sacred Heart Cathedral junior guard Herman Pratt has been the Irish's best perimeter defender and will again have to guard Alemany's best player on Saturday. (Photo by Doug Ko)

By Jeremy Balan

The matchup between the Sacred Heart Cathedral and Bishop Alemany boys basketball teams in the Division III state championship on Saturday isn’t a clash of styles as much as it is a class of personnel.

As crazy as it may seem, the two teams appear to be mismatches for each other. The advantage is effectively to be determined.

The Irish have a distinct advantage in the frontcourt, with standout senior forwards Taylor Johns and Joshua Fox, but the Warriors counter with a host of guards, all capable of scoring in bunches.

Taylor Johns (pictured) and Joshua Fox will be the biggest advantage for the Irish in the state championship game against Alemany. (Photo by Eric Luis)

The key to the Irish may be defending the Alemany guards, led by Nevada-bound senior wingman Marqueze Coleman, who averaged 21.5 points per game in the regular season, and senior point guard Max Guercy, who averaged 18.3 points per game in the regular season and has a scholarship offer to play at Hawaii.

“It’s important that we guard the ball pretty consistently.” said Sacred Heart head coach Darrell Barbour. “Our most important thing is to play defense, limit penetration off the dribble and contest shots even if they beat us.”

Conversely, the Irish will have an edge inside in rebounding and in the paint with Fox and Johns, with 6-foot-7 freshman Malik Anderson the only true frontcourt player likely to start for Alemany. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, the Warriors were outrebounded 49-20 in the Southern California championship game against St. John Bosco, but still won.

“Sacred Heart does have a size advantage, but on the other hand, Alemany has just found a way to win this season,” said Gerry Freitas, the director of Hoop Review, a scouting service for college coaches. “It’s going to be a tough task for them to guard [Johns and Fox]. Sacred Heart’s size is Alemany’s problem, and Alemany’s depth is Sacred Heart’s problem.”

The Warriors’ depth is almost entirely in the backcourt and their top six scorers are guards. The Alemany guards are also physical and have some size themselves. Sophomore shooting guard Bear Henderson is listed at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds and Guercy may be the toughest player on the team.

“I’m not saying Henderson is there yet, but in the long run he will be their second-best player in this group and will go Division I,” Freitas said. “[Guercy] may be not very tall, but he’s a block of granite. He’s an ox.”

The Sacred Heart guards will not only need to play well defensively, but also limit turnovers. Barbour focused on the importance of limiting turnovers, but also limiting the type of turnovers. He’d rather have players throw a ball out of bounds than put the ball into the hands of Alemany, allowing them to jump into transition.

“They can score in transition, but they’re also good at scoring in half-court sets,” Freitas said. “You don’t see a team that can do both often. They have the discipline that you need to do that.”

Barbour hasn’t shied away from sharing his game plan and will start with junior guard Herman Pratt, arguably the best perimeter defender in the City, guarding Coleman, but stressed the need for in-game adjustments.

“There are different ways of winning. Every game is different,” Barbour said. “We don’t have to change the way we play, but I’m getting the feeling from people that they think we need to play over our heads. I’m convinced that if we play our game, we will win.”

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31 Comments

  1. Basketball Fan says:

    Looking forward to today’s game. Proud of our young men’s season and GO IRISH!

  2. IC Stars says:

    The stat that stands-out from the Bosco game is “outrebounded 49-20”. You know Johns & Fox will take advantage of that. Pratt plays great defense. Go IRISH!

  3. Ari Gold says:

    JB, right on with the analysis. SH doesn’t need to fear the fact that Alemany’s guards can get to the basket. The emphasis on defense won’t be to stop them from getting there. The emphasis is to have them drive and take TOUGH, WILD, OFF-BALANCED shots when they see Fox or Johns 2 feet in front of them. At any level, when you break your man down on the perimeter and drive towards the basket, if theres any interior defender who’s job is to challenge your shot, the offensive player unless super athletic is going to throw up a low % shot or have that shot blocked.

    It should be a good game and yes Coach Barbour said it right, if SH plays their game and not Alemany’s, it will be a win for the Irish.

    • SF_Mikey says:

      I’d still be worried about Johns / Fox getting into early foul trouble since it sounds like these guys are athletic enough to take it to the rim not settle for 5′ floaters in the lane. I don’t know how good of outside shooters these guys are but I might be tempted if I was Coach Barbour to throw in a little match up zone defense against these guys if they repeatedly get beat off the dribble and can’t handle these guys quickness.

      Let’s go Irish!

  4. merkinworld says:

    The only people I have seen this year stop Fox and Johns have been the referees. These guys seem to almost always have 2 fouls each in the 1st half. Good luck Irish.

    • Whatever says:

      Please. The reason they seem to almost always have two fouls each is that they get themselves into foul trouble. Then again, using your logic, maybe at the start of each game the refs get together and decide to call everything against these two players. That sounds logical doesn’t it???

      • tom mccormick says:

        What about The15 point Alemany blowout victory you predicted. How did that turn out? Any other money-making tips you would like to share?

    • RC Cola says:

      Riordan was able to stop them, forcing the other guys to put up the points…

  5. JJ says:

    It looks like this game won’t start until around 3:30pm or 4pm

  6. JJ says:

    Highly contested 1st half. Alemany’s speed is pretty insane. They trapped Pratt in the corner numerous times, and got alot of steals. On TV, Alemany looks like they have the more impressive cheering section. This game looks like it will go down to the wire.

  7. JJ says:

    Alemany has alot of hot-tempered players. Saw alot of technicals in the 1st half. Alemany coach acting like a crybaby too. Alemany is very talented. Otis and Petroni are both having a GREAT game.

  8. Ari Gold says:

    Didn’t I tell you guys alemany doesn’t rebound? Irish playing THEIR game. This one is over.

    • JJ says:

      Jinx? I thought it’s not over til the fat lady sings?

    • JJ says:

      I guess the SHC fans can blame the Irish’s loss on Ari Gold’s premature celebration.

    • RC Cola says:

      Irish are “Home” yet it seems like there wasn’t much student support… Alemany cheering section were loud and dominated the SHCPs. See the guys with their headphones. Who wears headphones to a basketball game?

      • JJ says:

        The refs were horrible. i saw the game on TV, and the call when O’Reilly stepped on the line during an inbounds pass right before halftime was atrocious. I doubt James and Pratt fouled out of a game all year, then the refs foul out these 2 guys and almost foul out Johns. I think SHC could’ve won the game, but they missed alot of FT’s. Alemany made their big run, because Johns was on the bench due to foul trouble, so Alemany was taking it to the hole every single time. Johns could’ve played better defense if he didn’t take swipes at the ball, but just jumping straight up. There will be a huge drop-off in SHC basketball next year, without the huge cog in the middle. I agree that the student support for the SHC basketball team was somewhat lacking. I’m kinda bummed ComCast isn’t showing the Sheldon- Mater Dei game.

      • Josh Weinstein says:

        “This one is over.” – Ari Gold.

        Not really. But still an absolutely memorable season for the Irish. Excellent representatives for San Francisco and the WCAL. As time passes and the sting of the loss fades, I hope the team doesn’t forget how great they were.

  9. JJ says:

    I gotta admit that these refs are probably from SoCal. I saw 2 or 3 ticky-tack fouls on Taylor Johns. This is what happened to La Costa Canyon vs Mitty, when they basically fouled out their big man. When it gets down to it, the winning team sometimes go to the team the refs side with.

  10. JJ says:

    The refs fouled out Pratt. Did he even foul out this year? This is Alemany’s game to lose.

  11. JJ says:

    WOW. they foul out Taylor Johns too.

  12. SF_Mikey says:

    Tough loss! They just weren’t good enough to pull it out today. Puts a bit of a damper on an otherwise great season.

  13. RC Cola says:

    Time to hang it up and get to the back of the line… SI or Riordan.. who’s it gonna be?

  14. Chris says:

    I dont think so, RC Cola, the Irish will not be in the back of the line next year.

  15. JJ says:

    The refs just fouled out Mater Dei’s best player. These refs are seriously very horrible.

  16. JJ says:

    I think female refs are better than male refs. Female refs are fair, while male refs seem to have grudges or like to use make-up calls if they mess up.

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