Many people portray the 2009 Sacred Heart Cathedral boys’ basketball team as larger than life.
It reached the apex of accomplishment in high school basketball with the boys program’s first state championship, and the current version of the Irish has a chance to be in that company if it can win the CIF Division III state championship on Saturday at Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento.
The lone holdover player from that 2009 team, senior forward Joshua Fox, was called up from junior varsity at the end of the season as a freshman and has grown into a leader on this year’s edition, as well as its leading scorer and rebounder.
“I still look up to them and they’ve talked to us and congratulated us,” Fox said of many of his 2009 teammates. “Just to know they’re proud of us is special to us.”
The Irish will meet Bishop Alemany of Mission Hills, the top seed in the Southern California bracket, and the game will likely be a clash of styles.
The Irish guards are more than competent, but Alemany’s top six scorers are listed as perimeter players, including 6-foot-4, Nevada-bound wing Marqueze
Coleman and point guard Max Guercy, who has a scholarship offer to play at Hawaii.
Coleman averages more than 20 points per game and is Alemany’s leading rebounder, and Guercy averaged more than 18 points and five assists in the regular season.
Sacred Heart, of course, counters with Fox and fellow standout senior forward Taylor Johns, who both regularly register double-doubles.
A stat that should encourage the Irish is that Alemany was outrebounded 49-20 in the SoCal championship game against St. John Bosco, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. But what should be equally discouraging is that despite the rebounding disparity, the Warriors still found a way to squeak out a 62-61 win.
All season long, Sacred Heart coach Darrell Barbour has spoken to the cohesiveness of his team and that will be crucial to the defensive effort against an Alemany squad that has advanced to the championship game behind supreme driving ability.
The key defensively will not only be the Sacred Heart guards containing Alemany’s driving players, but for Fox and Johns to alter and contest shots, without picking up unnecessary and costly fouls.
“I don’t teach that and tell my kids that, but subconsciously I know that [there is a safety net with Fox and Johns],” Barbour said. “But I’ll be honest, we cannot afford Taylor or Josh being off the floor for long periods of time, and foul trouble can get you off the floor.”
Barbour has already assigned standout defender Herman Pratt to guard Coleman and the junior has embraced his defensive role all season.
“We just want to stay in front of them, because they like to dribble,” Pratt said. “If we stay in front and play hard, we should get the win.”
Barbour does not shy away from game planning, but with so much unknown about the team from nearly 350 miles away, a familiar saying he has used all season seems to fit.
“At 2:45, the ball is going to go up and we’ll find out who the better team is,” Barbour said.
WHAT: CIF Division III state championship game
WHEN: Saturday, 2:45 p.m.
WHERE: Power Balance Pavilion, Sacramento
TV: Comcast SportsNet California