San Francisco’s seen its share of thrilling basketball games in the last few years.
Between the Golden State Warriors, USF Dons, the Pro-Am at Kezar Pavilion and hosting games in last year’s NCAA Tournament, there have been great games at every conceivable level in the sport within the city’s 49 square miles.
It would be hard for any of them to top Wednesday night’s game at Sacred Heart Cathedral’s Christian Brothers Court, though.
University defeated the host Fightin’ Irish 84-83, taking the lead on Luke Bradley’s corner three with 36.4 seconds left overtime after squandering a double-digit lead and allowing a 40-foot buzzer-beater shot to tie the game at the end of regulation.
“Those guys won a state football championship, and it felt like we were playing football,” University head coach Randy Bessolo said. “It took every bit of toughness we had, and it took every bit of toughness from all our guys. I couldn’t be more proud of their effort. It felt like we had to win that game four times.”
The final minute of regulation alone had more thrills than most teams would experience in an entire season.
The Red Devils, who had been in front for much of the night, had seen their lead whittled down to just two when Gus Parsons fouled SHC forward Jerry Mixon Jr., an Oregon football commit, on a hard drive to the rim. That disqualified Parsons from the game after scoring 16 points, and Mixon sank both free throws to tie the game with 17 seconds left.
“Jerry has improved every single practice,” Fightin’ Irish coach Caesar Smith said of his senior forward. “He comes in and handles his business, so it’s easy to trust a guy who does the right things.”
University (5-1) would answer the call on the ensuing trip down the floor when junior guard Cole Boake split two defenders, converted a layup and drew a foul with a second on the clock.
“We were playing for one (possession), and they were playing some pretty heavy pressure, so we ran some of our action that would try and take advantage of that,” described Boake, who scored 20 points.
Game over, right? Nope.
While the Red Devils had mapped out possible scenarios if Boake had missed the free throw during a timeout, they forgot to make arrangements to defend the inbound man. After Boake's free throw made it a three-point game, Jack Kennedy had nobody guarding his half of the court, and he fired an inbound pass more than 50 feet to Fed Pernell, who caught it and launched a prayer before the final horn sounded.
Prayer answered. Tie game, 76-76.
The Red Devils weren’t going to panic, though.
“When they hit that last three, we went in the huddle, and we said, ‘Good. This is our opportunity to show something,’” Bessolo said.
And show something they did.
Despite allowing Sacred Heart Cathedral (2-1) to make yet another comeback in overtime, evening the game at 81 after University had taken a four-point lead, the Devils prevailed. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps commit Joey Kennedy (20 points) fouled out with 1:12 left in overtime, and Mykel Patton tied the game at 81 on a drive, but Bradley, who scored 20 points to match Boake and Joey Kennedy, knocked down a go-ahead 3-pointer from the corner, his sixth triple of the night.
Mixon, who finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, missed a free throw that would have tied the game with 24.6 seconds left after drawing a foul on a layup. University had a chance to extend the lead back to three but failed to do so when Trevor Tarm, receiving additional playing time with Kennedy and Parsons fouled out, missed two free throws at the other end, the latter of which missed the rim completely. The Irish had one last chance for a layup in the final seconds to win the game, but missed, and the final horn sounded as Tarm grabbed the rebound under the basket.
“I feel like at this point we’ve done so much preparation, and there's been so much confidence instilled in us by our coaches,” Boake said. “They really trust us on the court. We don’t call a lot of plays or sets, and I think that shows they really trust us to make plays.”
Parsons scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half to send the Red Devils into the break with a 41-28 lead. They led by just six after an RL Miller 3-pointer, but Miller fouled Boake away from the ball with 1.6 seconds left in the second quarter and was given a technical foul. Boake made all four free throws, then sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer off a Trevor Tarm assist.
The Fightin' Irish bounced back by scoring 21 in the third quarter, and they trailed just 59-53 early in the fourth after a Miller alley-oop from Pernell ignited the crowd.
Miller, who scored 11 points, injured his ankle with 3:03 left in overtime. He walked out of the gym afterwards with no assistance. Smith had no updates on the Arizona State football commit’s status following the game.
Pernell scored a game-high 24 points, including 11 of his team's 25 in the fourth quarter. Jonah Goorin scored 11 and Michael Manfreda finished with 10.
The Red Devils needed 169 points to win their back-to-back games, having beaten Piedmont 85-74 a night earlier.
Both teams will be back in action on Saturday to conclude three-game weeks. University faces another West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL) opponent on the road, traveling to the outer Sunset to face St. Ignatius (2-1). SHC hosts Sacred Heart Prep (3-2) as part of the SHC Founders Classic.
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