The Sacred Heart Prep boys ended their basketball season with a heart-wrenching 64-52 loss to visiting St. Mary's of Albany, which rallied from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter, in a CIF Division IV quarterfinal Saturday night.
The No. 3-seeded Gators finished their season at 24-5 while the 11-seeded Panthers improved to 20-11 and moved into the regional semifinals against No. 2 seed Cardinal Newman.
"What I'm so proud about of them all the time is that there is no shot they feel they can't hit," said Sacred Heart head coach Tony Martinelli. "Whether they're 1 for 10 or 5 for 10, they still think about the next shot. You have to do that but, obviously, it came back and bit us in the most crucial of times."
With 6:30 minutes left in the fourth quarter, St. Mary's went on a staggering 26-2 scoring run. Kevin Warren and Aren Ulmer combined for 19 in the quarter as the Panthers turned a deficit into victory.
In the first quarter, Sacred Heart senior Corbin Koch stole the ball, went the length of the court and finished with a slam and the Gators were down 14-13 to finish the first. Koch had a career-high 35 points against Mesa Verde in the first round and finished with a team-high 22 points on Saturday.
"He's (Koch) probably a top five player to ever play at Sacred Heart," said Martinelli. "He's a guy that can control the offensive side, both inside and outside. He's got Division I talent; he's as good as you get here."
With just over two minutes left in the second quarter, senior Mitch Martella grabbed an offensive rebound, got fouled and made a layup for the three-point play giving the Gators a 28-23 lead. Sacred Heart led, 29-27, going into halftime.
SHP's Mason Randall found fellow junior Connor Moses in the corner for a 3-pointer and Sacred Heart took a 40-31 lead in the third quarter. The guards had relatively quiet nights, with only 14 points combined. Nonetheless, Sacred Heart took a 45-38 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Gators took their largest lead of the game in the fourth quarter when Martella layer in a shot and made it a 50-38 lead. At that point, a SHP victory looked apparent.
Sacred Heart Prep, however, couldn't pull away as the turnovers and missed shots ruined the Gators' hopes. SHP converted only three field goals in the quarter and committed 12 turnovers in the second half.
"I thought they were pressing," Martinelli said of his players. "Everyone knew the gravity of the game, and when that gets on you and it's win or go home. Then, yeah, you do get a little tighter sometimes. We've been in tough situations at times this year, but when you're not shooting well at home sometimes it feels like its even more magnifying."
With three minutes left in the game, St. Mary's Kevin Warren hit a three-pointer from the corner and the Panthers took its first lead since the second quarter, 55-52. The Panthers piled on nine more points, with no answer from the Gators.
"We just got sloppy and turned the ball over," said Koch, who played his final game as a Gator. "I was guilty of it, everyone was guilty of it, it's not just one guys' fault."
"It's a cruel thing, high school sports," addd Koch. "Except for a few teams in each division in each sport, other than those, it all ends in a loss and it all ends so suddenly. Not hearing the ball bounce and not going to work with those guys, after school on Monday is probably going to hurt the most."
"You can't sugar coat the loss," said Martinelli. "It's more about the pride you have and the coaching and how big a part of all of our lives it is. Coaching these guys November through March, this becomes your life. These guys are important to us and they mean a lot to us -- they're some of the best guys I've ever coached."
Division V girls
Eastside Prep took its first step toward the program's first-ever NorCal title and state berth with a 38-13 victory over visiting San Domenico.
The top-seeded Panthers (23-5) went on a 25-0 run over the second and third quarters to secure the low-scoring victory. Eastside Prep next will host No. 5 seed University (San Francisco), a 49-47 winner over Durham, in Tuesday's regional semifinal at 7 p.m.
Eastside trailed 7-6 after one quarter against San Domenico of San Anselmo (23-7) and were down 9-8 before the Panthers went on a 17-0 run to close the first half. They then tallied the first eight points of the second half to make it 33-9.
Eastside's full-court press forced San Domenico into 18 turnovers over the final 23 minutes of the game, during which the visitors scored just four points.
Senior Chacitty Cunningham led Eastside with 15 points with senior Destiny Graham getting all 14 of her points in the first half. Eastside's third senior, Brije Byers, hit a trio of 3-pointers for nine points. Only three players scored for each team.
Division V boys
Priory saw its season come to an end in a 53-49 quarterfinal loss to host and No. 4 seed Brookside Christian (25-4) in Stockton. The No. 5-seeded Panthers finished 18-10.