Sacred Heart Prep’s boys basketball team is breathing a collective sigh of relief these days two weeks after a player pivotal to the Gators’ title aspirations suffered a freak injury in practice.
Reed McConnell, a senior guard headed to UC Irvine who is averaging 14.7 points, suffered an ankle injury when he tripped over an assistant coach’s foot.
After missing two games, McConnell played limited minutes in a 73-54 West Bay Athletic League victory over The King’s Academy on Feb. 1 in which he scored five points.
He saw more minutes in Friday’s 77-58 victory over Pinewood, in which he scored 16 points.
“When we pulled him out (of practice) it didn’t look that swollen, but the next day it swelled up pretty good so that’s when we got a little concerned,” SHP coach Tony Martinelli said.
The Gators (18-2, 10-0 WBAL), the No. 3 team in , didn’t really miss a beat with senior Pat McNamara averaging 15 points in two games spelling McConnell.
But McConnell’s health is crucial to SHP’s Central Coast Section Division IV title defense, and possibly beyond that.
When he’s healthy, McConnell’s perimeter shot and propensity to drive to the basket stretches opposing defenses that already have plenty to worry about with in the paint with his brother, Will McConnell, a 6-foot-6 Dartmouth-bound senior center who is averaging 15.9 points and 6.7 rebounds, and senior forward Tomas O’Donnell, among others.
Martinelli initially wanted to keep Reed McConnell out of full contact drills last week in advance of the Pinewood game, but he capitulated when the playmaker forced the issue.
McConnell has responded well to physical therapy, and his play in the Pinewood game was especially encouraging, after he looked a bit tentative against The King’s Academy, Martinelli said.
“I was worried that he was going to rely on his perimeter game too much and have trouble defending, but he did a lot of good things taking the ball to the basket, and he didn’t look afraid to mix it up at all,” Martinelli said.
McConnell has for now lost some quickness, Martinelli said, noting that he can’t cut like he normally does, something that hurts the Gators when opposing teams press.
“That affected us a little bit,” Martinelli said of the Pinewood game, “but I think if he stays with it he’ll be at full strength in a few weeks by the time CCS rolls around.”
BOYS SOCCER PLAYOFFS WITHIN REACH FOR WOODSIDE, SEQUOIA
The Redwood City area over the last 20 years has become the epicenter of Peninsula soccer.
The city’s Juventus club team is considered among the Bay Area’s best and among state’s most highly regarded programs.
And so it’s just expected that two local high school soccer teams at least make the CCS playoffs.
Since 1990, Woodside and Sequoia have held up their end of the bargain.
Woodside has qualified for the playoffs 13 times over that stretch, and Sequoia 12.
In all but two years (1994 and 2003), at least one of the two teams has experienced postseason play.
But both programs suffered heavy graduation losses after last season and now find themselves in rebuilding mode, fighting for their playoff lives going into the last two weeks of the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division season.
“In the Redwood City community, it’s huge,” Woodside coach Michael Bustos said of the sport’s popularity.
The CCS outlook for both teams is decent, as the intensely competitive PAL Bay is usually awarded one or two at-large berths in addition to the guaranteed spots for the league’s top three teams.
Woodside (7-5-3, 4-3-3 PAL Bay) is in fourth place, trailing third-place Carlmont (5-3-2) by one game. Sequoia (5-6-5, 3-4-3) is in fifth.
“For us, it’s something we expect every year,” Bustos said of making the playoffs.
But Woodside’s road to CCS won’t be easy. The Wildcats’ next three games are all on the road -- against Carlmont, Burlingame (which is battling Menlo-Atherton for the PAL Bay crown) and archrival Sequoia, meaning they can either gain or lose ground quickly.
Senior defender Donny Perez and his younger brother Octavio Perez, a junior forward, are among Woodside’s top players. Junior midfielder Brian Torres, sophomore defender Alexander Herrera and freshman midfielder Danya Kafai (a national player) are among the program’s rising stars.
“Things have been changing throughout the season so it’s still up in the air, but I do believe we still have a promising chance,” Bustos said. “As long as we stay focused I think we can make it.”
Carlmont’s boys and girls basketball teams are in the hunt for PAL Ocean titles with two games left. On the boys side, the Scots (16-6, 6-2 PAL Ocean), who last season shared the Bay title with Mills, play host to Jefferson (12-9, 6-2) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. with a share of the title on the line for both teams. The girls team fell out of a tie for first place with Half Moon Bay after a heartbreaking 68-60 loss to the Cougars on Friday. The Scots (14-7, 6-2) are still within striking distance of HMB (13-7, 7-1). Carlmont’s hopes of a shared championship likely depend on third-place Westmoor (14-7, 5-3) beating the Cougars in Friday’s finale. HMB plays Oceana, 0-8 in the Ocean, tonight. … Menlo-Atherton’s boys soccer team (10-3-2) plays Burlingame (12-3-2) for control of the PAL Bay on Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Burlingame. Both teams have three league games left after that.