Playing for the right to the Bruce-Mahoney trophy, the Wildcats exploded to a double-digit lead in the first quarter and never looked back in an utterly dominant 70-39 win against their longtime city rival in a game played at the USF’s War Memorial Gym. Rugged senior forward Julian Marcu led the Wildcats with 19 points and 12 rebounds, and Division I guard prospect Trevor Dunbar chipped in with 15 points for the Wildcats in their shockingly easy win.
The game started off tight as expected, with the two teams trading baskets during a frenetic opening three minutes, but then the Wildcats’ undersized guard tandem of Dunbar and Jaren Yang took over. The two combined for 15 points in a devastating 19-0 run, turning a 9-7 deficit into a 26-9 lead. Yang swished two 3-pointers and Dunbar nailed a trifecta, converted a three-point play and made three free throws in the run.
The seemingly shellshocked Fightin’ Irish appeared to come back to life in the second quarter, closing the gap 30-18 after a basket by Omari Brown. But the Wildcats, who trotted out a much bigger frontcourt, didn’t let up, dominating the boards en route to closing the half on a 15-2 spurt, capped off by a 3-pointer from the corner by Cole Feeney with just under a minute left in the second quarter.
Sacred Heart never looked comfortable against the Wildcats’ zone defense, and by the time the fourth quarter came around, the Fightin’ Irish fans were streaming for the exits and the benches were emptied for a drama-free close to the game.
“We felt like the zone could be effective against them because they have great guards who can get to the basket, but we wanted to test and see if they could make outside shots against us,” said Dunbar, a 5-foot-9 left-handed guard. “They weren’t able to knock their shots down, so we took advantage of that.”
Sacred Heart entered the game with an 8-1 record, earned during a nonconference schedule loaded with some of the top teams in California, but the Fightin’ Irish never had a chance in the deciding game of the Bruce-Mahoney rivalry.
The trophy is named after Bill Bruce and Jerry Mahoney, alumni from the respective schools that were killed in action during World War II. Whichever school takes the majority of the three major boys’ sports — football, basketball and baseball — earns the trophy. For basketball and baseball, in which the teams meet multiple times, the winner of the first game counts toward the Bruce-Mahoney tally.
The St. Ignatius football team defeated Sacred Heart Cathedral 49-14 in the fall. The Wildcats now hold a 47-20 all-time edge in the storied rivalry.
“I never expected us to get the win like this,” Dunbar said. “We came out expecting a really tight game and we were able to pull through. It’s an amazing feeling to have the Bruce-Mahoney trophy again.”