by Tim Goode
Palo Alto Online Sports
Sacred Heart Prep's boy's basketball team captured its first-ever Central Coast Section Division IV championship with a 54-45 victory over top-seeded Palma, the No. 7-rated Division IV team in the state at Santa Clara University's Leavey Center on Friday.
Sacred Heart (22-5) took control early, lost control late, but regained its collective composure in the final minutes to take the game and earn the school's fourth boys' basketball title. SHP won Division V titles in 2008, 2006 and 1995.
The Gators built a 12-point lead late in the third quarter, but Palma came back to within two at 38-36 seconds into the fourth quarter. A surge of SHP turnovers -– 10 in the third quarter and six in the fourth -- allowed the Chieftans (23-4) to close the gap.
The three McConnell brothers -– juniors Reed and Will plus sophomore Cole -– scored all of the Gators' 16 points in the fourth quarter to fend off the Palma charge.
"In games like this you just trust the things you do in practice will show up," said Sacred Heart coach Tony Martinelli. "Situations like this don't rattle this group. When Palma cut it to four, I looked at the guys on the bench and none of them looked rattled and no one on the court looked rattled, either."
The steadying factors throughout the game were Ty Cobb and Reed McConnell. Cobb scored 10 points and had nine rebounds in the first quarter alone and McConnell scored a game-high 24 points.
"What Cobb did in the first quarter showed the inside advantage we had right away," said Martinelli. "That opened up the outside."
Cobb finished with 12 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots. Palma had 15 rebounds as a team.
Reed McConnell made three of seven three-point attempts and eight of his 16 field-goal tries. The junior wing made all four of his fourth-quarter free throws.
When the Gators weren't mishandling the ball, they were shooting well. Sacred Heart made 19 of 43 of its shots. The McConnells were a collective 12-for-25 from the floor.
The championship guarantees a home game Tuesday in the first round of the Northern California playoffs.
The title also marked a milestone for the program. Sacred Heart is one of only three teams in the CCS to qualify for the playoffs every year since 1988 when the tournament went to the five-Division format (Mitty and Valley Christian are the other two); but the first three titles the Gators captured were in Division V. Prep lost in last year's Division IV final to Menlo after it beat Palma in the semis.
"This was a big step forward for the program," Martinelli said. "To get another chance to get back to a game like this meant a lot."
CCS Division IV Championship
At Santa Clara University
Sacred Heart Prep 14 15 9 16 – 54
Palma 7 13 14 11 – 45
SHP – McNamara 0 0-0 0, C. McConnell 0 2-2 2, Terndrup 2 0-0 4, R. McConnell 8 5-5 24, W. McConnell 4 1-3 10, Cobb 5 2-5 12. Totals: 19 11-17 54.
Palma – Plascencia 0 1-2 1, Benavent 7 1-4 15, Cahalan 2 1-5 7, Allen 4 2-2 11, Duke 5 1-1 11. Totals: 18 6-14 45.
Three-point goals – R. McConnell 3, W. McConnell (SHP); Cahalan, Allen (P).
Records: Sacred Heart Prep 22-5; Palma 23-4