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Sacred Heart Prep captures first CCS title since 2014 with bigger plans in store

EVAN WEBECK | ewebeck@bayareanewsgroup.com | Bay Area News Group

Aidan Braccia scored 26 points to lead Sacred Heart Prep to its first CCS championship since 2014

ATHERTON — Was it more satisfying for Aidan Braccia to lead Sacred Heart Prep to a championship in an enrollment-based division than to compete and lose against the top competition in the Open Division?
“No — and yes, at the same time,” answered Braccia, nobody more equipped to answer the question than the junior who drained 26 points in the Gators’ CCS Division IV championship win over The King’s Academy.

As a freshman in 2019, Braccia and the Gators were bounced early from the Open Division playoffs. Two years later, Braccia led the way to a 62-48 win in the D-IV title game Saturday night.
“You love the competition, but you also love the wins,” Braccia said. “It’s a mix of both.”

Braccia and 6-foot-6 senior Harrison Carrington helped the Gators enter halftime with an 11-point advantage. Carrington finished second to Braccia with 10 points and led the Gators with five rebounds and four assists.

The CCS final could have been on its way to a finish resembling the teams’ two regular-season meetings, which both ended in double-digit Gators victories.

But The King’s Academy roared back with 15 of the first 19 points of the second half, catalyzed by the aggressive play of senior guard Antonio Gonzalez, who scored seven of his 10 points after halftime. Only senior Noah Short, with 12, contributed more points for the Knights.

The King’s Academy pulled even at 37 with 1:38 left in the third quarter, but that was the closest the Knights would come the rest of the night.

Braccia immediately answered with a 3-pointer and followed it on the next possession with a basket off a backdoor cut, extending Sacred Heart Prep’s lead back to 5 entering the final period. The Gators sank free throws down the stretch to extend their lead back to the double-digit final.

“Look at that banner,” Braccia said afterward, gesturing to the gym’s rafters. “The last time we won was in 2014. It’s been seven years. It was just great to be able to get this win for the whole program and the whole community.”

The Gators have advanced to the CCS finals in half of coach Tony Martinelli’s 14 seasons; the trophy earned Saturday was their sixth in Martinelli’s tenure but their first since 2014.

A title at Division IV may not carry the same satisfaction with the top eight teams competing in the Open Division every year since 2013 and without NorCal regionals to prove themselves this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it gives the Gators a goal for next season, when they return Braccia and host of other underclassmen.
“The Open has created this goal that makes everything else feel secondary,” Martinelli said. “You don’t want that to happen, but I think that’s good for programs to shoot for that excellence. So for us, that’s always the goal. … I’ve got a young team. It was nice to get another one, but the next goal is to raise it up a little bit.”
The King’s Academy made its first appearance in a CCS boys basketball final at any level. Coach Cameron Bradford finished his first season at the helm with a 10-5 record. “It was a whirlwind,” Bradford said. “From where we started, practicing outside, to end up here, I never would’ve imagined it. Now we have something to strive for.”

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Founded by the Society of the Sacred Heart, SHS is a Catholic, independent, co-ed day school for students in preschool through grade 12