by Tim Goode
Palo Alto Online Sports
It took a timely streak of three-point shooting, some opportunistic defense and flawless fourth-quarter free-throw shooting for Sacred Heart Prep's boys' basketball team to earn its first-ever Division IV NorCal victory, a 62-50 decision Tuesday night over visiting Wallenberg.
The No. 4-seeded Gators (23-5), the Central Coast Section champions, will take a 15-game winning streak into a second-round home game Thursday (7 p.m.) against St. Patrick/St.Vincent (Vallejo), 65-35 winner over Calaveras.
The victory was the first ever for the Gators at the Division IV level. Prep lost last year's first-round game and won once (2005) in three tries at the Division V level.
The Gators overcame a five-point deficit in the third quarter with a long-distance bullseye shooting run by the three McConnell brothers. Down 32-27 midway through the third, Will McConnell hit a three and and then stole the ball in the backcourt while pressing, making the ensuing layup to tie the game. Moments later Cole McConnell buried a three followed by another trey by Reed McConnell on the next possession. Cole hit another seconds later for a 43-35 SHP advantage going into the fourth quarter.
Sacred Heart Prep made all 14 of its fourth- quarter free throws and Wallenberg did not threaten again.
Reed McConnell led all scorers with 24. Fellow junior Will McConnell had 16. Cole McConnell, a sophomore, and Ty Cobb (a senior) both had six points. Zach Watterson led Prep rebounders with five.
The McConnell's shooting was fortuitous for the Gators, who were challenged inside and also experienced trouble taking care of the ball during the first half. Wallenberg (21-7), the runnerup from from San Francisco's Academic Athletic Association, was able to successfully work the ball inside and control both offense and defensive boards. The Bulldogs outrebounded the Gators, 24-12.
"That was a little bit of a surprise to us. They dug in and took the ball inside and I don't think we were as ready as we should have been," Martinelli said. "We were a little scattered in the first half. We took shots early in the possession and had little patience. The second half was more characteristic of how we play."
Sacred Heart pressed Wallenberg into nine second-half turnovers but equally important, it settled down when it had the ball. Sacred Heart turned the ball over eight times in the first half but only three times in the second half when it put the game away.
In Division V boys' first-round action, host Pinewood (20-7) advanced with a 55-42 victory over Bradshaw Christian of Sacramento.
In Division I girls' first-round play, Menlo-Atherton (15-17) saw its season end in a 52-44 loss to Lowell (SF) at Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco.
CIF NorCal playoffs
Division IV first round
Wallenberg 14 11 10 15 – 50
Sacred Heart Prep 15 10 18 19 – 60
W – Cottonham 0 4-4 4, Bethanesalase 4 1-2 10, Siao 0 1-2 1, Moon 5 6-10 16, Brown 3 3-4 9, Fontaine 3 1-4 8, Quan 1 0-0 2. Totals: 15 16-26 50.
SHP – McNamara 2 0-0 5, C. McConnell 2 0-0 6, Watterson 1 0-0 2, Terndrup 0 3-4 3, R. McConnell 7 8-8 24, W. McConnell 5 5-5 16, Cobb 2 2-4 6. Totals: 19 18-21 62.
Three-point goals: Bethanesalase, Fontaine (W); R. McConnell 2, C. McConnell 2, W. McConnell (SHP).
Records: Sacred Heart Prep 23-5