Harrigan comfortable with Irish’s state of mind 

Brian Harrigan has no plans to stay up late crafting a master motivational speech the next tonight.

With his Sacred Heart Cathedral girls’ basketball team preparing to face Sacramento High for the NorCal Division III title Saturday at 10 a.m. at Stockton Arena, the Irish coach knows the stakes speak for themselves. The victor earns a spot in the March 24 state title game against the winner of the SoCal championship game between Santa Margarita of Spring Valley and Bishop Amat of La Puente.

"We’re where every team wants to be right now, one win away from the state title game," Harrigan said. "If you need a pep talk or something more than that to get motivated, you’re probably not going to be ready."

After winning the Division IV state title in 2006, the top-seeded Irish (30-2) moved up to Division III this year as a result of an increase in enrollment. Standing in their way of another berth in the state title game is No. 2 Sacramento (29-3), last season’s Division III NorCal winner and the champions of the Sac-Joaquin Section. The Dragons are led by 6-foot-4 Tennessee-bound senior forward Vicki Baugh, who averages 17.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game this season, and could be a challenging matchup for a Sacred Heart team that features no player taller than 5-foot-10.

"We can’t wait to play," Sacred Heart 5-foot-9 sophomore forward Tierra Rogers said. "We want to prove to people we can face a 6-foot-4 girl and come out with a win."

The Irish haven’t failed many defensive challenges this season. The team has allowed an average of just 38.7 points per game, has won 21 straight and became the first boys’ or girls’ basketball team in the history of the West Catholic Athletic League to go undefeated in league play. They are coming off a dominant performance in last week’s semifinal, holding St. Mary’s of Stockton (which entered the game averaging a state-best 81.7 points) to a season low in points in a dominating 79-51 win.

"We always focus on what we can control and that’s our defense," Rogers said. "And if we’re struggling a little offensively, we know the defense can pick us up and we can get some points off that."

Offensively, Sacred Heart has a number of players who can score, led by junior forward Jazmine Jackson (11.0 points per game). Rogers (8.1 ppg) is a versatile player who make jumpers and create off the dribble, while guard Lauren Bell (8.0 ppg) is a defensive force who is also a threat to score. Point guard Ki-Ki Moore (6.8 ppg) is a great passer, while 5-foot-10 center Monique Calvello is a presence in the paint.

"We’ve played in a lot of big games and we know what to expect," Moore said. "We’re just going to play as hard as we can and try to get another win."


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