Brown's mad dash lifts Sacred Heart Cathedral past rival St. Ignatius 

click to enlarge Sacred Heart Cathedral’s Omari Brown, right, puts up the game-winning shot over St. Ignatius’ Dominic Burke. The Irish won 50-49. - ERIC SUN/SPECIAL
  • Eric Sun/Special
  • Sacred Heart Cathedral’s Omari Brown, right, puts up the game-winning shot over St. Ignatius’ Dominic Burke. The Irish won 50-49.

Omari Brown and Sacred Heart Cathedral aren't ready to give up on the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy just quite yet.

Brown, the senior point guard for the Irish, converted a heavily contested layup at the buzzer to cap a miraculous fourth-quarter rally that gave the Sacred Heart Cathedral boys' basketball team a dramatic 50-49 victory over rival St. Ignatius in front a raucous crowd at the War Memorial Gym on the University of San Francisco campus.

St. Ignatius led throughout the contest and looked poised to capture its first victory in the West Catholic Athletic League season, holding a five-point lead with just over a minute to play. However, the Wildcats went 0-of-4 down the stretch from the free-throw line in squandering their late lead.

The last free throw proved to be the most costly, as junior sharpshooter Jack Coulter (18 points, four 3-pointers) missed the front end of a one-and-one with 7.7 seconds remaining. Sophomore big man Alfred Hollins (16 points, 14 rebounds) grabbed the board for Sacred Heart (8-4, 2-1 WCAL) and dished the ball to Brown, who made his mad dash to the hoop that will live in Irish lore.

"I knew as soon as I got the ball that I was going to the hoop," said Brown, who scored 12 points on the night. "I didn't see the ball go through the basket, but when I heard the crowd, I knew it went in. The seniors on this team really didn't want to leave this game as losers."

The Wildcats (7-6, 0-3) looked like they were about to put the game away early in the third behind the shooting of Coulter, as St. Ignatius opening up a 43-28 lead, much to the delight of their fans. Yet the Irish gamely battled back, finishing the quarter on an 8-0 run that was capped off by a thunderous dunk from senior guard Negasi Hart.

St. Ignatius regained some of the momentum in the fourth quarter, leading 47-38 with just more than four minutes to go in the game. However, Sacred Heart increased its defensive pressure, forcing several turnovers late in the game to make it close. Hollins picked up several key offensive rebounds, the last of which he converted to bring Sacred Heart within 49-48 with less than a minute remaining and setting the stage for Brown.

"We wanted to play fast, and toward the end of the game, we were able to increase the tempo," said Irish coach Darrell Barbour. "These kids are fighters. They were determined to go out with a win."

The Bruce-Mahoney Trophy, named in honor of Bill Bruce and Jerry Mahoney, alums of St. Ignatius and Sacred Heart respectively, is awarded to the school that captures the best-of-three matchup in football, basketball and baseball (with the first meeting of each season counting for the latter two sports.) St. Ignatius defeated Sacred Heart 20-7 in football this fall. By virtue of the Irish win, the trophy will be decided on March 20, when the two baseball teams square off in AT&T Park.

St. Ignatius used a gritty defensive effort in the second quarter to take command of the game early, holding Sacred Heart to two just field goals in the period. Trailing 15-14 with a minute to go in the first, the Wildcats clamped down on the frigid Irish, breaking out on a 14-4 run to take a 28-19 lead with 30 seconds remaining the second quarter. Using patience and deft ball movement in their half-court sets, the Wildcats assisted on seven of their 11 made baskets in the first half.

Despite their dismal shooting half the Irish pulled to within six at 28-22 when freshman guard Nathan Robinson hit a 3-pointer at the second quarter buzzer.

GIRLS

SACRED HEART CATHEDRAL 60, ST. IGNATIUS 51

The Irish (6-8, 2-1 WCAL), who entered the contest as heavy underdogs to St. Ignatius, maintained complete control of the game's tempo en route to an impressive victory over the rival Wildcats (12-2, 2-1).

The Irish led 18-11 after one quarter and were never seriously challenged by the Wildcats, considered by many to be the top team in the Bay Area.

Senior guard Kayla Coloyan led Sacred Heart with 18 points, senior center Ashanti Coleman chipped in with 13 and sophomore forward Iimar'I Thomas added 13 points for the Irish, who improved to 6-8 on the season, including 2-1 in WCAL play.

Senior guard Addi Walters scored 13 points to lead the Wildcats, whose lone loss entering the contest came to nationally ranked St. Mary's of Berkeley. The Wildcats are now 12-2, and 2-1 in the WCAL.

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Will Reisman

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