In their final tuneup before the Bruce-Mahoney Game, the Sacred Heart Cathedral Fightin’ Irish authored a performance that would win over even the biggest cynics and skeptics.
The Irish had four different scorers in double figures and recorded assists on 17 of their 25 made baskets in a convincing 68-46 home win over the Bellarmine Bells.
“Anyone can score,” Jack Kennedy said of the balanced attack. “We have six, seven guys that can get at least 10 points a game. We’re deep, we play hard and we keep rotating.”
A year ago, the Irish finished the season at 4-16, with a 2-12 mark in West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL) play. This year, they’re 7-4 (1-0 WCAL).
It’s not like they were that far off last year. Only six of those 16 losses were by more than 10 points, and just three were by more than 15. But Friday night, the 2022-23 unit showed that it has the ability to eke out wins in spots that would have led to losses a year ago.
The 22-point margin doesn’t suggest that Bellarmine (5-6, 0-2) put up much of a fight, but the Bells trailed just 36-30 early in the third quarter. But, as was the case at every inflection point, SHC made that next play.
“Last year, we would be in every game, but we couldn’t execute late in the games,” said Fed Pernell, who scored 14 points.
RL Miller knocked down a 3-pointer at the other end, and after a Bells miss, Pernell hit a long jumper to stretch the lead to 11, starting a 12-4 run that extended the lead to 14. The advantage grew to 20 on a Jonah Goorin 3-pointer three minutes into the fourth quarter, and got as large as 25 on a pair of Jerry Mixon Jr. free throws with 1:48 left.
Kennedy shared high honors with Pernell, scoring 14 points, while Mixon added 11 and Goorin chipped in 10.
SHC took a 16-14 lead by scoring the final eight points of the first quarter, then scored the first eight of the second quarter to make it a 16-0 run before the Bells finally responded on a Chase Sparagna 3-pointer.
Sparagna led Bellarmine with 13 points, while Nick Corbett, an offensive lineman on the Bells’ football team, had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
As intimidating of a presence as Corbett can be in the post, SHC had no trouble getting to the rack, spreading the Bells out in the paint with quick passes. All 14 of Kennedy’s points were scored in the paint.
“This past week at practice, we’ve been working on not letting the ball stick and making the defense rotate,” the 6-foot-4 junior said. “We knew that they weren’t gonna be able to rotate on long closeouts, and we knew we could outrun them.”
The Irish will face St. Ignatius (7-5, 1-1) at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday night in the annual Bruce-Mahoney Game at USF’s War Memorial Gym. The multisport series to decide the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy is currently tied 1-1; SI won the volleyball match in straight sets, while SHC won the football game 10-0.
Ethan Kassel can be reached at [email protected]