VALLEJO — As Sacred Heart Prep’s most experienced player in Northern California regional playoff games, senior Everett Banks did his darndest to rally the Gators in the second half.
Still, with Banks bull’s-eyeing a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter, No. 3-seed Sacred Heart Prep (23-6 overall) couldn’t climb back into Saturday’s CIF Northern California Division I boys’ basketball regional semifinal game, falling 56-43 to a No. 2 St. Patrick-St. Vincent team that led the entire way.
“It was just climbing uphill the whole game, really,” Gators head coach Tony Martinelli said.
A packed house in Vallejo watched as Banks and senior Charlie Selna shared the team-high of 10 points. SHP’s two top scorers couldn’t match St. Patrick-St. Vincent junior Jaden Alexander, though, who went for a game-high 24 points, including 12 in the first quarter.
“The energy was a lot,” said Banks, who transferred back to Sacred Heart Prep this season after attending St. Mary’s-Albany last season, where he played in the 2018-19 Northern California Division IV tournament. “We had a large body of (SHP) students over here, so that was fun and that was awesome to see. It was as fun game. But not the best turnout.”
Alexander came out scalding hot, popping several outside jumpers and scoring two put-backs early on. The 6-4 junior forward exploited the zone defense of the Gators to lead the Bruins to a 19-8 lead after the first quarter.
“When you’re playing zone, you’re going to leave someone open,” Martinelli said. “I didn’t think it was any breakdowns really except for not boxing him out.”
Sacred Heart Prep adjusted its defense, and how, in the second quarter, rallying to close the deficit to 23-21 by halftime.
“At halftime, we kind of said to ourselves this is our game,” Selna said. “We had a lot of momentum. And it just couldn’t translate into the second half.”
The Gators suffered a blow just prior to the break when forward Jai Deshpande limped off the floor with an ankle injury. The senior has been the Gators’ igniter through the team’s first Nor Cal playoff appearance since 2014-15. He finished with just 4 points on the night.
“He sprained an ankle late into the second quarter,” Martinelli said. “Just on a rebound, he came down and then twisted it a little bit. … It’s a senior. You take a senior off the floor who’s played in a lot of games and wants to keep his season going, it just changes things a little bit.”
With the Bruins (25-10) opening the second half on a hot spree, Martinelli called upon Deshpande to reenter. But it took Martinelli just one series to decide otherwise.
“He tried to give it a go,” Martinelli said. “You could tell, he tried a wide-open layup and he just had no lift, and he kind of rimmed it in and out. He just wasn’t the same.”
The Gators just couldn’t get in sync in the second half.
“We … uncharacteristically, looked a little tight … to start the third quarter,” Martinelli said. “And they kind of blitzed us a little bit, got two straight scores, and then we started missing open shots. We had a couple open shots that we missed and then it was just like we were climbing uphill again.”
Selna had his hands full in the post defending against 6-11 senior Dishon Jackson. While Jackson finished the night with 9 points, it was on the boards where he impacted the St. Patrick-St. Vincent transition game.
“He was tough to cover in the zone,” Selna said, “especially because they brought guys in the high post and I had to get two guys at once. But they knew how to get him the ball, and they knew how to finish. He was a good player.”
The Gators committed 16 turnovers in the game. With the loss of Deshpande, Sacred Heart Prep also had to sit the 6-7 senior Selna for much of the third quarter due to foul trouble.
“We played our hearts out,” Selna said. “We just couldn’t hit certain shots. That kind of killed us. We made some bad turnovers, especially me. That’s on me. I could have gotten more rebounds … but I thought we played our hearts out, and that’s all you can ask for.”
It has been quite a postseason run for Sacred Heart Prep. After sharing the West Bay Athletic League Foothill Division championship with Menlo School, the Gators qualified for the Central Coast Section Open Division tournament. Then, with the automatic bid in the Northern California tournament, SHP hosted its first two Division I playoff games, and had a chance to host a third had it gotten past St. Patrick-St. Vincent.
“I said from the beginning our goal was to win league, win CCS, win Nor Cal, win state,” Martinelli said. “I think the guys in the room believed it. I don’t know if anyone else really did, but no one really seemed to care about any of that. And that mentality carried through everything that we were doing. … Then getting to this level, getting to Nor Cals, and having a chance to have a state Nor Cal final played at home, I don’t think anyone would have ever thought that could be a possibility. So, I’m just excited for what they did and what they accomplished together. I’m going to miss them tremendously.”
St. Patrick-St. Vincent advances to the Northern California Division I regional finals. The Bruins will host No. 4 Weston Ranch-Stockton, Tuesday at 7 p.m. The winner advances to this Saturday’s Division I state championship game.Click here for the full article...