The Score: Serra 45, Bellarmine 44.
The Star: While Serra High guard Sam Leahy only netted four points, his last two came at the most crucial of times. The senior netted two crisp free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining to give the host Padres the one-point victory Saturday night over the West Catholic Athletic League rival Bells.
The Turning Point: A reach-in foul by Bellarmine’s Kris Olugbode with his team already over the limit put Sam Leahy at the line for a one-and-one situation. The collected Leahy then proceeded to sink both shots to give Serra the 45-44 edge in the waning seconds.
The Quote: “At the end of the day, it’s just another shot. We practice them every day. It’s a free throw. They don’t call them ‘free’ for nothing.” -- Serra guard Sam Leahy, on the pressure of standing at the charity stripe with the game on the line.
What’s Next? Serra visits Sacred Heart Cathedral on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Entering Saturday, the Padres and the Fightin’ Irish shared first place in the WCAL with Mitty and Bellarmine.
The Bottom Line: The Padres gained some revenge for a 58-57 loss to Bellarmine in the 2010 Central Coast Section Division I championship. The Padres will now have a bigger target on their backs when they head south for a Feb. 5 rematch with the Bells.
Serra High’s rivalry with Bellarmine is so intense that even the coaches verbally jousted over their territory on the sidelines on Saturday night. It was just another typical game when the Bells and Padres locked up for the first time since last year’s Central Coast Section Division I championship.
“Every time you say ‘Bellarmine-Serra,’ you’re going to get a big crowd,” said Serra guard Connor McGrath. “It’s going to be a tough game, a close game and both teams will leave their hearts on the court.”
Serra defeated visiting Bellarmine 45-44 after taking the lead with 1.9 seconds remaining. Padre guard Sam Leahy drew a reach-in foul from Kris Olugbode to gain a one-and-one opportunity. The Serra student section went ballistic when Leahy calmly sank both free throws to give the Padres (13-2, 4-1 WCAL) a one-point lead.
“It was a little ironic,” said Serra coach Chuck Rapp, reflecting on his team’s opportunity at the line because the hosts had put Bellarmine in the bonus and at the charity stripe throughout the fourth quarter. “We’ve had trouble on the free-throw line. That’s the irony I was thinking about. We had really struggled on the line the last two games. We spent some extra time on that and it was ironic that it came to free throws and we made them.”
Serra’s revelry would only last for so long though, as Bellarmine’s Steve Karr received the inbound pass from Grant Vermeer and looked to get off one final shot. Time appeared to have expired without Karr taking a shot. The Bellarmine coaches argued that they had called a timeout however, and, after a meeting of the officials, .09 seconds were added to the clock.
A final Bellarmine shot went wide as the Padres secured the West Catholic Athletic League victory. Serra entered the night in a four-way tie for first place in the league with Mitty, Sacred Heart Cathedral and the Bells.
Close contests are nothing new in games between Serra and Bellarmine (10-5, 3-2). Seven of the teams’ last nine meetings have been decided by four points or fewer – including the Bells’ 58-57 CCS championship win last year.
“It’s big,” said Rapp. ”It’s a big rivalry and we play each other a lot. We’re both D-I teams so it seems like we’re always playing in the WCAL, the WCAL playoffs and the CCS playoffs. We see them probably more than any other team in the league and in more meaningful games. Any time you can find a way to win against your rival, it’s special.”
Serra held a slim 25-23 lead at the half before charging ahead 39-32 at the end of the third quarter. But the Bells would ultimately chip their way into the Serra differential.
“We had a nice run,” said Rapp. “We tried to get the ball inside. They went with three guards. We tried to find a matchup that we could exploit on the post. We got some easy baskets inside, scored on their defense and made a run. Give Bellarmine credit though. It’s an elite team and every elite team has a run. They answered right back. We were trading paint, door handle to door handle.”
Serra guard McGrath led all scorers with 15 points, and sophomore Henry Caruso netted eight points.
The Bells were topped by Griffin Goudreau’s 11 points. Olugbode and point guard Alex Chapman had nine points apiece.
Serra 45, Bellarmine 44
B -- 11 12 9 12 -- 44
S -- 11 14 14 6 – 45
B: Goudreau 3 4-5 11, Chapman 3 0-0 9, Olugbode 4 1-2 9, Wolokolie 3 1-3 7, Karr 1 2-4 4, Vermeer 2 0-1 4. Totals 16 8-15 44.
S: McGrath 5 3-6 15, Caruso 4 0-0 8, Grosey 2 2-4 6, Pacheco 3 0-0 6, Leahy 1 2-2 4, Barsocchini 1 0-0 2, Regina 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 7-12 45.
3-point goals: B: Chapman 3, Goudreau. S: McGrath 2.
Records: Bellarmine 10-4, 3-2. WCAL Serra 13-2, 4-1.