Sacred Heart Prep out to avenge 2010 NorCal loss 

The boys’ basketball team at Sacred Heart Prep has matched its school’s football program with a section championship. Now, the Gators want to go a step further.

Sacred Heart Prep opens its run in the Northern California bracket of the CIF Division IV state basketball playoffs today at 7 p.m. at home with a second-round game against St.Patrick-St. Vincent of Vallejo, which defeated Amador in its opening-round game Tuesday.

But while the football team was denied a berth in the state championship game by a selection committee that sent eventual state champion Escalon to Southern California instead, the basketball team can play its way to a NorCal and possibly even a state title.

“It helps that we know we can play with the top teams,” Gators coach Tony Martinelli said. “But we have some very good teams standing between us and those titles.”

Sacred Heart Prep (25-2) survived a tough Central Coast Section championship game against Santa Cruz last week, and it was enough to earn them a first-round bye.

“We really had to grind it out against Santa Cruz,” Martinelli said.

Part of the reason for that was Reed McConnell being out of the game while serving a one-game suspension. But while McConnell used the extra practice time to get back into the flow, Martinelli is making some small adjustments in preparation for tonight’s game.

“It’s just fine-tuning right now, we’re not going to make any big changes,” Martinelli said. “We try to cut down on the length of practice, but all of these guys love to practice so much it’s hard to do that.”

It also helps the Gators that they will get a rematch with the team that knocked them out of the NorCal playoffs last year. A fact not lost on Martinelli.

“We really didn’t have a preference as to who we wanted to play,” Martinelli said. “But I am sure the guys want another shot at St. Patrick’s.”

The winner moves into the semifinals on Saturday against the winner of No. 2 St. Mary’s of Berkeley and Summerville of Tuolumme.

In the Division III bracket, Burlingame (27-4) travels across the Bay to take on No. 4 El Cerrito (23-7) today at 7 p.m. after demolishing Weston Ranch 63-41 at home on Tuesday night.

The winner advances to the NorCal semifinals on Saturday against the winner of No. 1 Sacramento-Foothill Palo Cedro. The Panthers will be looking to extend their school record for wins in a single season.

In Division IV girls, No. 2 Notre Dame Belmont (14-14) will open their NorCal slate by hosting Lassen tonight at 7 after a first-round bye. The winner moves on to face either No. 1 St. Mary’s or Branson on Saturday.

San Francisco teams competing today include the Sacred Heart Cathedral boys taking on Bishop O’Dowd in Division III, the University boys against Liberty Christian of Redding in Division V, the Sacred Heart Cathedral girls hosting Campolindo at 6 p.m. and the St. Ignatius girls’ traveling to Paradise for a 7 p.m. contest.

A look at San Mateo County and San Francisco teams playing second round CIF state basketball tournament games Thursday:

Boys’ Division III
Burlingame at El Cerrito, 7 p.m.
Bishop O’Dowd at Sacred Heart Cathedral, 7:30 p.m.
Boys’ Division IV
St. Patrick-St. Vincent at Sacred Heart Prep, 7 p.m.
Boys’ Division V
Liberty Christian at University, 7 p.m.
Girls’ Division III
St. Ignatius at Paradise, 7 p.m.
Campolindo at Sacred Heart Cathedral, 6 p.m.
Girls’ Division IV
Lassen at Notre Dame (Belmont), 7 p.m.

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