Sacred Heart girls reemerging under Mike Carey

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL

Mike Carey knew it was a no-win situation - at least by Sacred Heart Cathedral girls basketball standards.

The 12-year JV and varsity assistant coach for the Irish was part of one of the greatest basketball runs, for either gender, in the region's history. Then in the summer of 2009, head coach Brian Harrigan stepped away after 19 seasons, 597 wins, four state titles and a mythical national championship in 2007-08, and Carey was given the reins.

"Sure it was a daunting task," Carey said. "No matter what we did last season, people were either going to say, A. we were only successful because of the great athletes we had, B. I didn't know how to coach, or C. Brian left because the talent cupboard was bare."

In reality, Carey said, A. Harrigan left because he simply had nothing more to prove, B. Sacred Heart Cathedral thrived long before a remarkable stretch of Division I talent arrived starting in 2004, and C. he can and loves to coach.

Following a 13-13 season with one Harrigan leftover - All-Metro center Kamilah Jackson (now at Hawaii), the 17th-ranked Irish (8-4) are overachieving with a tiny, scrappy and young bunch.

They face archrival St. Ignatius (12-2), ranked eighth, in the first half of a double-header at USF at 6 tonight. The boys game will start approximately 30 minutes afterward.

"One thing Brian told me when I took over was, 'Don't try to be like me - be like Mike,' " said Carey, a 1978 Sacred Heart graduate. "I wasn't looking to rebuild when I took over, but to reload."

Clearly the Irish don't possess the talent of the national championship squad - which featured six players who now play collegiately and a seventh, Tierra Rogers, who was going to play at Cal before she was forced to retire because of a heart condition - but they pressure fullcourt and rely on defense and balance like Harrigan's squads.

Five girls, led by 5-foot-4 sophomore Jerrieza Enriquez (8.4), average more than five points per game, and only one girl is taller than 5-9. The Irish, coming off their best win, 63-22 over Valley Christian, have made 70 of 247 three-point tries.

Of the 36 players in Carey's program, 29 are sophomores or freshmen, including Geanna Summers-Luaulu, a 5-7 ninth-grader with Division I talent.

"He has things rolling over there and I knew he would," St. Ignatius coach Mike Mulkerrins said. "We battled at the JV level and it's obvious he knows what he's doing."

Harrigan scouts occasionally for Carey, and on Monday, he broke down St. Ignatius game tape. "He's completely stayed clear but always left the door open to help," Carey said. "I don't think he's done coaching yet."

Briefly: St. Ignatius' girls are also coming off their best win, 57-55 at then-No. 5 Presentation as Alex Legarza, Maria Kemiji-McDonald and Raquel Avila combined for 41 points. ... St. Ignatius' boys (9-4), coming off close league losses to No. 9 Serra and No. 15 Bellarmine, can win the Bruce-Mahoney trophy with the victory. ... Sacred Heart's boys (10-2) haven't lost to a Metro Area team this season.

This article has been corrected since it appeared in print.

Chronicle rankings

Boys basketball W-L Pv.
1. Bishop O'Dowd 10-2 1
2. Salesian 12-0 2
3. Mitty 11-1 4
4. Castro Valley 11-1 6
5. Oakland 8-5 7
6. De La Salle 10-2 8
7. San Ramon Valley 13-1 3
8. Deer Valley 12-3 11
9. Serra 10-2 9
10. Newark Memorial 9-5 10
11. Sacred Heart Cathedral 10-2 12
12. St. Joseph Notre Dame 11-4 13
13. Castlemont 10-3 14
14. Oakland Tech 11-3 15
15. Bellarmine 9-3 17
16. Burlingame 10-3 18
17. Analy 12-3 NR
18. El Cerrito 10-5 NR
19. Berkeley 9-3 5
20. University 11-3 20
Girls basketball W-L Pv.
1. Carondelet 11-2 1
2. Berkeley 10-1 2
3. St. Mary's-Berkeley 11-3 3
4. Dougherty Valley 13-2 7
5. Mitty 8-4 4
6. Pinewood 10-3 6
7. Bishop O'Dowd 7-6 8
8. St. Ignatius 12-2 13
9. Presentation 10-4 5
10. Campolindo 12-3 9
11. Deer Valley 6-5 10
12. Miramonte 12-1 11
13. Eastside Prep 8-6 12
14. Salesian 12-0 18
15. Mission San Jose 15-1 19
16. Terra Nova 6-4 20
17. Sacred Heart Cathedral 8-4 NR
18. James Logan 12-3 NR
19. Branson 12-2 NR
20. St. Francis 7-3 NR