Boys Basketball: Sacred Heart Cathedral holds off Riordan for fifth WCAL win

Sacred Heart Cathedral junior guard DeOndre Otis drives past a Riordan defender on Wednesday at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep. (Photo by Matt Zheng)

Sacred Heart Cathedral junior guard DeOndre Otis drives past a Riordan defender on Wednesday at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep. (Photo by Matt Zheng)

By Jeremy Balan

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior point guard Khalil James kept the Irish offense alfoat all night against visiting Riordan on Wednesday, so it was no shock the ball was in his hands with the game on the line.

Down by a point with 17 seconds remaining, James got the ball on the perimeter, drove to his left and into the key, drew an extra Riordan defender and dished the ball to unattended teammate Liam O’Reilly under the basket.

The junior forward then made a contested layup to give the Irish the final edge in a 55-54 West Catholic Athletic League win.

The assist was James’ fifth of the game, which went along with a game-high 18 points.

“He just went and made a play,” said Sacred Heart head coach Darrell Barbour. “To that kid’s credit, he’s not afraid. He’s not afraid to go and make a play. He believes in himself and he knows he’s going to make the right play.”

Riordan (10-6, 1-5) had one last chance with 5 seconds remaining after O’Reilly’s go-ahead layup and pushed up the floor, but lost control of the ball, and after a scrum, failed to get a shot off.

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior guard Khalil James does up for a shot in the lane against Riordan on Wednesday at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep. (Photo by Matt Zheng)

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior guard Khalil James does up for a shot in the lane against Riordan on Wednesday at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep. (Photo by Matt Zheng)

The final Sacred Heart score was the ninth lead change of the fourth quarter and gave Riordan its second straight one-point loss. Other than an 11-point loss to Serra, the rest of the Crusaders’ WCAL losses have been by single digits.

Three baskets by Riordan junior forward Chiefy Ugbaja and another by point guard Geru Mabrey gave the Crusaders four separate leads in the fourth quarter, but they could not put the Irish (12-4, 5-1) away.

“I have to look myself in the mirror and see what I need to do in crunch time to help this team win,” said Riordan head coach Rich Buckner. “We’re all in there asking ourselves what went wrong and I can’t pin all the blame on the kids. When we lose by one point here, two points there, it’s gotta fall on my shoulders at some point.”

Ugbaja had a team-high 17 points and nine rebounds, and the Crusaders thrived in the paint, most notably in the third quarter, when they scored 16 of their 24 points in the lane. In large parts of the second and fourth quarters, though, Riordan ran into trouble when it settled for jump shots.

“We try to stress getting the ball inside, whether we shoot it in there or not,” Buckner said. “On our good possessions, the ball was going inside-out. On our bad possessions, it was either one pass or no pass and a quick shot.”

In the second quarter, the Crusaders shot 2-of-11 from the field (the only two field goals came from Ugbaja in the paint) and the Irish ended the first half on a 10-0 run to take a 34-21 lead into halftime. After the break, Riordan came out inspired and outscored the Irish 24-9 in the third quarter to take a 45-43 lead into the final frame.

“On offense we were bad – bad floor balance, bad rhythm – we were just out of sorts,” Barbour said. “We had that lead and we relaxed, but they also made some shots. You have to give them credit, because they got the momentum. Our lack of offensive efficiency – I mean we stopped scoring – ignited their offense.”

Sacred Heart junior guard DeOndre Otis was hot early and scored 11 first-half points, but went cold in the second. Without starting guard Herman Pratt, who missed much of the first half and all of the second with an eye injury, James still kept his cool. With Riordan surging, James scored 10 of Sacred Heart’s 21 points in the second half and doled out four assists.

“When Herman got hurt – DeOndre and Khalil have that experience,” Barbour said. “They played in a state championship game, so it doesn’t surprise me when we win close games. Our psyche and our approach is to play well enough to win. Whether it’s one point or five points, put yourself in position to win.”

The close result also emphasizes trends for both teams. Not much separated the two teams on Wednesday night, but the Irish are in second place because they have shown a knack for winning close games, while the Crusaders are in seventh because they haven’t.

“There are some frustrated teenagers and some numb teenagers in that locker room, but what we don’t have are teenagers that are going to give up,” Buckner said. “It’s frustrating, but we have hope. We’re so close, that when we see these teams again, it might be a different story.”

Scoring Leaders

Sacred Heart Cathedral
Khalil James – 18
DeOndre Otis – 11
David Parsons – 9
Liam O’Reilly – 8
Yanoj Jackson – 5

Riordan
Chiefy Ugbaja – 17
Geru Mabrey – 13
Bobby Arenas – 12
Frankie Ferrari – 10
Jiday Ugbaja – 2

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52 Comments

  1. IC Stars says:

    Anything about Herman Pratt going out with an injury in the first quarter?

  2. M Air J says:

    Great ending to this game. It appeared initially that this would be a one sided game as SHC had a double digit lead. Riordan clawed it’s way back, mostly on the play of C. Ugbaja inside. SHC had no answer for him and he definitley plays above the rim. Otis played great in the first half and James was amazing in the second half. James willed his team to victory and made the plays when he had to. SHC needed his senior leadership and he delivered. James has a very nice game where he gets in the lane and either pulls up for a mid range or floats it in. IMO, he is just as quick as Mabrey. Arenas and Ferrari started out hot but they cooled down as the game wore on. SHC got solid contributions from multiple players and they made the plays when they needed to. SHC plays hard and play great team ball. They are also very well coached.

    As we saw with the Heat, and now with the Lakers, Riordan is taking time to develop chemistry. This team has been together for 6 games and are going up against teams who have played together for 2-3 years in one of the most competitive leagues in the area. The fact that they have been competitive and have had opportunities to win games in the end is a testament to Coach Buckner. The situation his team is in is not an easy one to coach in. He and his assistants do a nice job of getting their team ready to play every single game. I believe they will see more wins in the second half of league and this team will definitely be a force in CCS. They will be a cohesive unit and battle tested.

  3. wcalsf says:

    Coach Buck was right on both points…He had the wrong personnel during the later portion of the crucial 4th quarter when the Crusaders were outrebounded on key possessions and also could not finish easy shots near the basket. Also, their offense at times is rushed with poor and/or quick shot selections with everyone standing around except for the guards trying to do TOO MUCH one on one penetration. PGs performance was inconsistent offensively again as they need to get everyone involved. When they did, it resulted in easy buckets for their forwards…Rotation still needs to tighten up, but they are getting close. Close, though, is not enough in WCAL and they will need to pull out the win as SHC has done this season.

    • Ari Gold says:

      Riordan’s +/- was on the plus side when it was Mabrey, Jiday, Ferrari, Chiefy and Arenas.

      Its clear when Riordan went on their 11-0 run that lineup is the best 5 on team and Buckner needs to stick with that 5. Bring in Masoli, Gilleran to spell some players.

      Jeremy, what injury did Pratt sustain? I was on that side of the court when it happened but was too late to see what occurred. All I saw was Herman face down with his head in his hands.

      A portion of this comment has been edited.

      • jbalan says:

        It’s in the story. It was an eye injury. He got poked in they eye.

      • IC Stars says:

        I think that was an ice pack he was holding Ari.

        • wcalsf says:

          Chiefy Ugbaja is quickly becoming the best of the transfers. SHC did not really have an answer for him along with Bellarmine and Serra. He hung with the Mitty bigs getting a more impressive dunk in traffic rather than Gordon’s end of game all-alone windmill at the buzzer. If hits his free throws with consistency – game is over.

          • JJ says:

            Vrana should be getting more playing time. When he has played, no one scores on him.

            • wcalsf says:

              Vrana is still getting used to the speed and physicality of WCAL bball. For a guy who is 6-4 his jumper release is low where it could easily get blocked. He does have good length and overall skills. He will be a lot better next season with serious offseason work.
              Also, I thought the best Riordan combination last night was Jiday, Ferrari, Masoli, Arenas and Chiefy. This provided the Crusaders with speed and physical basketball players. Gilleran struggled most of the night getting outrebounded and missing shots near the rim. He did have some nice blocks in the second half.

              • Big guy 24 says:

                I agree 100% with wcal-sf with the best 5 who can help Riordan win are 1-Ferrari 2)Jiday 3)Arenas 4)Masoli 5)Chiefy, they play together and extremley hard as a team. Its time for Riordan and coach B to win games and the Juniors are the best chance for the rest of the year. Mabry holds the ball too long by dribbling too much and doesn’t look to get 10 assist per, rather he wants to score and that has hurt Riordan all year long. Graham can definitly give breathers to chiefy and masoli. Coach B has some big decisions to make with playing time and last nights game showed the 5 juniors are the best chance at this time. Keep your heads up kids and keep working towards a Common goal of winning!!

              • beefeezy says:

                big guy 24 you must be a parent,maybre gots the biggest heart out there.and he stay consistent.what about areans and ferrari gunning

            • Wcal insider says:

              JJ i am not sure how you came to that conclusion… He only played about 90 seconds in the first quarter. Thats not enough time for his man to even attempt a shot out there

  4. Ari Gold says:

    Jeremy called the Riordan unis hideous. I think they got a deal on those NBA xmas day uniforms with the one color/ same color trim and lettering/numbering.

  5. Ari Gold says:

    One thing that cant be overlooked is that Khalil James makes TOUGH, at times off-balanced shots after getting into the lane. Most from what I saw last night were shots that he had to readjust while in the air and he made it look routine. He made those last year but this year he’s even way more assertive since our two top scorers graduated. He will need to be big game James on friday night for us to have a chance against the Mitty Machine.

    • IC Stars says:

      Khalil James played the game the way I hoped he would. In other games he looked like he was just taking crazy shots but in this game he put up some nice running floaters that dropped in. This was his breakout game.

  6. number1 says:

    Haha I went to middle school with Deondre. Nice to see him doing his thing at SH

  7. Chris says:

    There was no Pratt because he got injured. That was the difference, SH probably would have won by at least 10. But Coach Barbour was stating last week he was waiting for Liam O’Reilly to have that breakout game one of these days. He didn’t have one yet but scoring the winning bucket will help his confidence in the very near future.

    • JJ says:

      It’s really hard to say that Pratt would’ve led SHC to a 10 pt win, because honestly, I think he wasn’t playing that well. He missed an easy layup in the 1st quarter and it was mostly the Khalil James and DeOndre show in the 1st half. If Pratt kept on playing, SHC could’ve lost because sometimes the best players force shots which help the other team. The game reminded me of the SI-Riordan game where SI jumps to a nice lead, Riordan comes back, but SI wins at the end, but this game was more dramatic. However, the Si-Riordan atmosphere was more intense and seemed like a playoff game.

      • WCAL Alum says:

        I am assume the 10 point difference was projected based on his defensive prowness rather than offense.

        • Chris says:

          Yes, thank you WCAL Alum, Pratt is hands down the best defensive player in the city.

          • JJ says:

            I don’t know if you gamble, but when a significant player is out, the betting line doesn’t jump 9 pts. No matter how good Pratt is, he won’t move the line 9 pts. I had the line at SHC -1 which was spot on, so if he played more, they would’ve won by 10? I don’t buy it

            • IC Stars says:

              I think in this case it would have been at least a 10-point Irish win. Pratt plays some great defense and they sure could have used him when they squandered a double-digit lead in the third.

        • beefeezy says:

          it would be his defensive hunger that would ve helped shut down there scorers

  8. WCAL Alum says:

    Yes, the Riordan away uniforms are hedious

    My question is why would Riordan call a time out after going ahead with 17 seconds to go? Doesnt this allow SHC to set up their play on their terms. Also allowed SHC to call a time out with 5 seconds to go to set up their defense before Riordan throw-in.

    Yes, tough going for Crusaders, but no one will question that they are the one low-seed team nobody wants to face in the first round of the playoffs.

    In all honesty too much hype going into this year (from both media and boosters) for Riordan. The WCAL has a way of neutralizing itself.

  9. BBALL FAN says:

    There is a lot of unrealized potential in that deep Crusader bench. Unfortunately, the coach chooses to focus and develop his few favorites. I can only hope that the hype about the transfers starts paying off.

    • BBall Playa says:

      I agree. Every week it’s the same story with Riordan, they fall behind, catch up and can even get ahead but can never finish the job. There is too much talent on the bench that Coach B overlooks and that’s unfortunate. He needs more of a rotation of his players if he wants his team to win. He depends too much on his favorites and they haven’t delivered for him yet. The difference 9-1 Pre-Season, 1-5 WCAL League. Continue with what was working-at least you have another
      2nd half season to hopefully get it right.

      • Prince says:

        On that Crusader bench is someone who scored 4 straight 3-pointers at the Moreau game, someone who scored 17 points against O’Reilly’s AAU team at a tournament in Foothill College, someone with several MVP recognitions to boast, someone with all the energy to guard the best of them, and so on. Practice players are what they’ve become. How does one build chemistry with 17 boys anyway? Coach B relies on his favorites too much and ends up always being outcoached at crunch time.

  10. Colormepurple says:

    So refreshing to hear Coach B stepping up versus the ‘other’ Riordan Coach S, who threw his players under the bus – ‘it’s not the x’s and o’s, we just don’t have the talent’. The bball kids will go thru a brick wall for this guy. The fball kids will get kicked to the curb by that guy! Just sayin’.

  11. WCAL Fan says:

    I missed the game last night but was wondering how the student participation was for both teams. It always seems like it’s a better envirnoment at the Crusader Forum.

  12. IC Stars says:

    Unfortunately, not a lot of noise from either side.

    • wcalsf says:

      Riordan got beat by a good senior-laden guard SHC squad. It was the sr. pg james outplaying riordan’s mabrey who made the game winning play by driving and dishing off to o’reilly.

      It was about 60% full with more parents/fans than students on the SHC side. Riordan had a good turnout with a number of students in attendance. SHC had their band there as well. There should be definitely more in attendance at the Forum with a more lively crowd along with the band as this might be senior night. I think it’s more that Riordan is an all-boys school. When both SH and SI were all-boys it was a lot more raucous and better attended. Kezar or USF were the only venues used before the 90′s for all the SF WCAL matchups.

      • irishiitalian says:

        Actually, it is not Senior-laden. It is quite balanced between the classes. Two starters are seniors – James and Pratt, and Pratt was out most of the game. The other three starters are juniors – O’Reilly, Davison, and Otus. Parsons is a sophmore and Jackson a sentior. So the 2nd, 3rd and 4th scorers last night were under classman.

        One other interesting note – Evan Davison is the nephew of former University of Arizona Star Bennett Davison who started on the 97 National Championship team. Bennett was actually at the Bruce Mahoney game watching his nephew.

        • wcalsf says:

          Riordan starts 3 jrs-Arenas, Ferrari and C. Ugbaja with 2 jrs in the substitution rotation in Vrana and Jiday. They’ll have 6-8 Karim next season. He’ll be a jr next season.

  13. Chris says:

    JJ, I seem to recall in the Bruce Mahoney game two SI forwards got swatted under the bucket by Pratt. Pratt never takes his foot off the pedal and we will need him against Mitty on Friday.

  14. Chris says:

    There is game # 2 right? and maybe even the playoffs, so we will see.

    • Ari Gold says:

      SH may be putting themselves in a tough position with all these wins because according to norcalpreps, they would be the 8th team in open division. As much as I love the green white and blue, I dont like our chances there vs Salesian, BOD, DLS, Mitty. If SH makes it D3 will either be Riordan or SI taking home a title.

      • jbalan says:

        Couple of things to clarify. CCS Open and the state Open tournament are entirely different things.

        The CCS Open is essentially trying to get the eight best teams in the section in one tournament. All of those teams will get bids to the state tournament, but not necessarily to the Open tournament. The way I understand it, a team that loses in the CCS Open first round probably would be put into an enrollment division in the state tournament.

        Also, Riordan is still in Division IV based on enrollment.

      • wcalsf says:

        Ari, I believe Riordan is D4 this year.

        • Ari Gold says:

          Riordan is going to win CCS D4 in a cakewalk. There is no school in that division that will even lose by single digits. As I understand it, CCS Open will be top 4 WCAL (Mitty, SHC, Serra, and Bell/SF/SI) and I guess league winners from PAL, Santa Cruz area?, Monterey area? and San Jose league? Thats a nice consolation to make it to Open CCS, and automatically be in NorCals.

          • JJ says:

            I believe Half Moon Bay is in D4 (their record is pretty good like 12-3 or something) and their coach used to be the head guy at Riordan — Coach Forslund. Palma was D4 last year, not sure about this year, as they could be in the Open or D3?

            • WCAL Fan says:

              Yes, Coach Forslund is a good coach and took Riordan to State. I saw talking with Buc at the Mitty vs Riordan game.

  15. wcalsf says:

    Agree. #22 Padrones should also be in the rotation, especially with the other guards struggles and inconsistencies since the start of league play. #21 Hernandez also deserves playing time to spell any of the forwards as he has a strong hoops iq and is physical with a nice game around the bucket. Both players were key contributors in the preseason. Perhaps start the original starting five w the exception of Gilleran. That would be Mabrey, Jiday, Arenas, Hernandez and Chiefy. Ferrari can be the instant offense and Gilleran, Padrones, Masoli, Vrana and Shaq as the bench rotation. That would be the most manageable. I wouldn’t necessarily go 3 guards of Ferrari, Jiday and Mabrey because when they’ve been in everyone else is standing around and the guards w/o the ball try to stay out of the way of the ball handler which makes for a terrible offense.

  16. beefeezy says:

    all these cry babies parent were so happy at the beginning,riordan is the best.they will be the best in the city.they are good team playing in a good confrence.coach b keep yo head up.remember these kids have been going deep in ccs[shc].be patient and stay positive.meant to the parents

  17. Purple hammer says:

    even still almost does cut it, who cares about competing, they can compete themselves to a one win season, they gotta find a way to get it done, some times finding a way to get it done can’t be coached

  18. wcal says:

    The Riordan uniforms are just hideous. Whoever made the design decision should be banned from all such decisions in the future.

  19. wcalsf says:

    Tonight’s Mitty-SHC game will be streamed live tonight on Baypreps.com – 7:30pm. They do a great job on their broadcasts.

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