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Sacred Heart Cathedral edges Bellarmine, wins CCS Open title

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SANTA CLARA — Before the game Friday night, the message was simple for Sacred Heart Cathedral: We’ve come this far. Might as well win it.
A week earlier, some wondered why the 10-14 Irish were even in the Central Coast Section’s Open Division?
Sacred Heart Cathedral went on to make history every step of the way. The Irish became the first No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 in the seven-year history of the division, shocking Archbishop Mitty in the first round. They followed that stunner with a victory over Menlo-Atherton to become the first San Francisco school to reach the Open final.
Friday night, they completed the mission, toppling defending champion Bellarmine 50-48 at Santa Clara University’s Leavey Center to silence the doubters once and maybe for all.
The Irish, still only 13-14, are CCS Open champions.
“We came a long way,” said Kori McCoy, whose 3-pointer with a little more than a minute left gave Sacred Heart the lead for good. “Everybody doubted us. We weren’t supposed to be in the Open Division. Everybody said, ‘How’d you all get in the Open?’ Look at us now. We the champs.
“Anything is possible. We persevered through a lot. Everybody had their personal struggles, and we the champs. That’s all I can say.”
On the other side, it was utter heartbreak. Bellarmine was back in the section’s premier final for the fourth consecutive season but left Leavey with the runner-up trophy for the third time.
In a game that was tight the entire way, Bellarmine went ahead 45-42 when Ian Elam scored on an inbounds pass with 3:45 left.
Sacred Heart answered with Cedric Reed Jr.’s rainbow 3-pointer from the corner to even the score 45-45.
A few possessions later, with the score still 45-45, McCoy buried a 3-pointer from the wing to give the Irish the lead. Sacred Heart widened the advantage to 50-45 on a transition layup by Oscar Cheng, who led the Irish with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Quinn Denker’s 3-pointer cut the margin to two with 17.1 seconds left. The Bells had only three fouls at that point, which meant they had to foul four times to put the Irish at the free-throw line but could also be aggressive defensively.
They thought they forced a turnover with a double team in the far corner, but the referees didn’t make the call.
Eventually, McCoy went to the line for a one-and-one with 4.5 seconds left. He missed. But Sacred Heart got the rebound, and McCoy went back to the line for a one-and-one with 2 seconds left. He missed again, but time ran out for Bellarmine as the Irish stormed the court to celebrate.
“They played harder than we did; they played more focused,” Bellarmine coach Patrick Schneider said. They played with a better game plan, and they played with a greater sense of determination and urgency. I thought we were out-hustled, out-executed. I thought we were out-coached. That’s on me.”
Denker had 23 points and five assists for Bellarmine. Elam added 11 points.
Reed finished with 10 points, three assists and two of the Irish’s nine steals. Bellarmine had only three takeaways. Oisin McCormack had 11 rebounds and six points for Sacred Heart.
“We went out there with nothing to lose at all,” McCoy said. “We’re the underdogs and we’re going to embrace that.”
In the celebration on the court, someone joked with MacKay that he might get to keep his job now.
The coach smiled.
“Great group of kids and a real life hoop dreams,” MacKay said. “These guys worked tremendously hard. I am proud of them. Good things happen to good kids.”
Both teams will move on to the Northern California regionals next week, with Bellarmine likely headed for Division I and Sacred Heart moving on to … the Open?
The previous six CCS Open champs have played in the state’s top division, but none had a losing record.
The seeding meeting is Sunday.
“For us, we’re going to cherish this moment and then find out where the chips fall and where we play next,” MacKay said.
Check back for updates

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