After a sequence of missed layups late in the fourth quarter, Sacred Heart Cathedral head coach Caesar Smith subbed all five of his players out, sending a message to his team that sloppy play wouldn’t be tolerated.
“We have a standard, and we’re gonna stick to that standard,” Smith said. “We have a way that we want to play basketball, and we’re not going to compromise that.”
Never mind that the Fightin’ Irish led by 30 at that point and went on to beat Terra Nova 74-44. The elevated standards are a sign that SHC’s goals are far higher than those of the last two seasons, in which the program went a combined 5-26.
“We’re getting back to the way things were when I was here,” said Smith, a 1998 SHC graduate. “We’re never going to be the biggest team, but our hope is that we can take advantage of the athletes that we do have and put them in a position to succeed.”
12 different players scored for Sacred Heart Cathedral (1-0) on Wednesday night as the Fightin’ Irish jumped out to a 10-0 lead and never trailed, using a 13-0 run in the second quarter to take a 38-16 lead and never letting the Tigers get any closer than 17 in the second half.
“I believe we can win the CCS (Central Coast Section) this year,” said RL Miller, who had a team-high 13 points.
Whereas the 2021-22 SHC team didn’t get Miller, Jerry Mixon Jr. and the rest of the Fightin’ Irish football players until mid-December, a byproduct of the school’s state championship run, the 2022 football team was placed into a higher division and quickly eliminated from the postseason, meaning the football players will be quickly integrated into the system.
“Last year, it felt like we had two separate groups. We had a beginning team and then the football players came over,” said Fed Pernell, who had eight points, eight assists and six rebounds. “This year, it’s a whole different chemistry.”
Pernell had four assists in the first quarter alone, hitting Miller and Jonah Goorin for back-to-back threes after Terra Nova (0-2) had cut the lead to 14-12 on a Mason Mini putback and-1.
Goorin, who finished with 11 points, was one of two starters who had played on the junior varsity team last year. Jack Kennedy also made his varsity debut on Wednesday night and scored all eight of his points in the fourth quarter.
“Our JV team had a great year last year, and a lot of those guys coming up fit right away,” Smith said.
It’s not like Wednesday was a complete masterpiece. The Irish had their share of turnovers and rough sequences, but they were the sort of mistakes typical of an early-season high school team.
“We’ve literally practiced for two hours all together as a team,” Smith said, noting that he had a handful of sick players over the prior week after the football season had ended. “We’re looking forward to having a week of practice and finally installing some stuff.”
Mixon Jr. scored 10 off the bench, filling out the rotation alongside fellow football players Mikey Calonico, Mykel Patton and Danilo Salgado. Vinny Smith scored a game-high 17 for the visiting Tigers, knocking down a 3-pointer in every quarter. Uter finished with 10.
Ethan Kassel can be reached at [email protected]