The Sacred Heart Prep athletic program is certainly no secret to most anyone who follows high school sports in the Central Coast Section.
Tuition alone — $35,560 according to the SHP website — says almost as much about its athletic program and facilities as it does its academic standing and most of all, its location.
SHP is located next door to Menlo School in Atherton, a zip code (94027) that Forbes Magazine ranked in 2013 as the most affluent area in the country.
It’s home to many high-tech CEO’s (Facebook, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, they’re all there) along with guys like Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Willie Mays, formerly Barry Bonds and the late and most certainly great, Shirley Temple, among others.
The Palma basketball team will face Sacred Heart Prep in a CCS D-IV semifinal game tonight at Menlo School at 7:30 p.m. Might be a good idea to arrive in a limo.
In the early game, Seaside and Harker tip-off in the other semifinal at 5:30.
Should Palma and Seaside both win it appears likely the title game will be played Saturday at Santa Clara University. If just one of the schools wins, the game will apparently be played at Independence High in San Jose.
CCS officials could set the time and place tonight, but more than likely will wait until Wednesday’s semifinal games are completed. The starting times at either location are 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m.
The Gator football team made news this past season when it tore through three Monterey County teams on its way to the state D-III championship game. They beat Seaside (35-12), Monterey (34-7) and Pacific Grove (56-21).
SHP lost to Corona De Mar, 35-12, in the finals.
The Gator football team also won CCS championships in 2012 and 2010.
The SHP basketball team has been a powerhouse for years. It reached the D-IV championship game five straight years from 2008-2012, winning the title every year but 2009.
During that span SHP beat Palma twice — 54-45 in a 2010 D-IV title game and 57-56 in overtime in a 2009 semifinal contest.
The Gators lost in the quarterfinals last year, but bounced back this season to take an 18-7 record into tonight’s game. It beat Menlo twice, 47-46 and 55-51. Palma beat Menlo in Saturday’s quarterfinal, 55-45.
Six-foot-3 junior Corbin Koch and 6-1 junior James McLean average 28 points per game between them for SHP. Koch is tops at 16.9 points per game.
Two Gator basketball players were a big part of the football team’s success. Six-foot-2 sophomore center Andrew Daschback — a tight end, defensive end — is known as a relentless worker on the boards and scrambles after loose balls as if they were fumbles.
The other football-turned-basketball player is 6-0 sophomore Mason Randall, considered their top 3-point gunner. But might want to keep a close guard on Connor Moses, too — he hit five 3-pointers in Saturday’s win against King’s Academy.
What Sacred Heart Prep doesn’t appear to have is the depth of Palma. But then, who does?
Not only does Palma seem to have an endless pool of talent on the bench, it’s a team from top to bottom that practically does nothing but win.
“This senior class, since they’ve been in junior high have done nothing but win,” Palma coach Paul Alioto said. “In the classroom, on the field and on the court they do it together. They don’t win individually, they win as a group.”
Unlike years past Palma is doing it this season without that one dominating player.
“It makes it a lot easier on everyone,” said Peter Lucas after his 19-point effort in Saturday’s win against Menlo. “Anyone can go off. Rather than stand there we’re able to get into motion and find a rhythm.”
Palma will try to win its way into the D-IV finals for the first time in four years tonight.
Even though Seaside has reached the CCS playoffs 27 straight years, it’s been eight years since they’ve made it to a championship game.
A win tonight and they’re back in the title game for the third time in school history.
Harker School is not a team that will probably strike fear into an opponent (unless your stuck with the $38,900 tuition tab), and sometimes that can be a costly oversight.
The San Jose school’s biggest claim to fame is its 2007 girls volleyball team that reached the state D-III championship match.
Three years ago the boys basketball team beat Soquel and reached the D-IV semifinals for the first and only time in school history.
Harker has never been to a CCS title bout in any boys sport.
The fact that Harker has gone this far in the playoffs might be a surprise to many. In the third-to-last game of the regular season the Eagles lost their all-league center — 6-5, 220-pound Will Deng to a knee injury.
What they’ve done in his absence is rather remarkable. In Harker’s two playoff games they held Carmel scoreless in the second quarter and allowed only two points to Soquel in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s quarterfinal victory.
Similar to Palma, Harker’s players have sort of grown up together on the basketball court.
“They’ve been playing together since seventh grade,” said Harker coach Butch Keller.
But this Seaside squad is one that coach Kelvin Garnett is exceptionally proud of.
“Teams like this, they only come around almost once every 10 years,” Garnett said.
And if what Garnett says is true — and it certainly seems to be that way on the court — the mental lapses have all but been eliminated.
“Our coaching staff is constantly getting into their head,” Garnett said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, how could we do that, and hey, how can we do this.’ They’re keeping that in their head on a daily basis.”
No need for rankings anymore. Division play changes everything. Suffice to say the top three teams in the tri-league area are Seaside, Hollister and Palma. I’d put Salinas No. 4 for its strong post-season play….MBL Gabilan Division doing itself proud in the CCS playoffs with three teams still kicking. Hollister plays Bellarmine in a D-I semi Wednesday at Independence High….You think Gabilan Division was tough this year, wait until next year. You ain’t seen nothing yet…Kaiser Arena in Santa Cruz made for an interesting quarterfinal site Saturday. After the second of four games ended everyone sitting opposite of the scorer’s table side of the floor had to change sides. For some weird reason they folded up all the seats on one side of the auditorium. They did let those sitting in the courtside seats stay. Courtside seats at high school basketball games — not something you see often…Beer and wine banners aren’t something you often see at high school games either, but then we’re talking Santa Cruz. No sales, just banners. No harm. No foul…Today is the day the MBL is supposed to announce what, if any, changes will be made to its equity league system for basketball next year. I’ll be in Atherton with the rich and famous. I’ll let you know of any changes when I get back… Let’s hope we have a game to go to Saturday.
George Watkins is a sports writer for the Salinas Californian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 754-4264. He can also be followed on Twitter at watkins_salnews.