Maybe it’s modesty or maybe it’s superstition, but Brian Harrigan can barely get the utterance out of his mouth without a chuckle.
The word is "dynasty."
And if Harrigan and his Sacred Heart Cathedral girls’ basketball team continue to win at this pace, they may have to come to terms with the definition.
The Irish (31-2) are the defending Division IV state champions, have won eight consecutive Central Coast Section titles and this year became the first basketball team in West Catholic Athletic League history — boys’ or girls’ — to go undefeated in conference play. Sacred Heart moved up to Division III this season after an increase in enrollment and will play BishopAmat of La Puente (27-5) on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Arco Arena in Sacramento for another state championship.
"I mean, you know, dynasty?" Harrigan asked rhetorically. "We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished, but we don’t ever use that word. When people say things like that, we’re flattered and take it as a great compliment, but we try to keep it in context and keep working hard. And that’s why we’re successful."
This season’s Irish team features many of the same faces that won the 2006 title, with the notable exception of senior guard Faihza Hill, who has missed most of the season with a torn ACL. And the scary thing is that much of the core will be back for one — if not two — more years in green. Sacred Heart, which has won 22 straight entering the state championship game, will lose just starting senior center Monique Calvello from the top eight of its rotation and junior forward Jazmine Jackson, classmate Lauren Bell and sophomore Tierra Rogers were first-team All-WCAL this year. Sophomore point guard Ki-Ki Moore was named to the second team.
Jackson, The Examiner’s Player of the Year last season, said the team hopes to create a lasting legacy at the school.
"[The players] talk about it a lot," said Jackson, the team’s leading scorer. "We want to be remembered around here as a great team that worked as hard as we could and always played with heart. And we’re after another ring."
Standing in their way is a Bishop Amat team that could be classified as a dynasty itself. The Lancers have won the last two Division III state titles and beat Santa Margarita 54-41 Saturday at Pauley Pavilion for its fourth consecutive SoCal crown, becoming just the seventh team to do so. Bishop Amat has gone 97-6 the past three years and is led by Candice Brown, a 6-foot-3 UCLA-bound senior.
"She’s a tough post player and we’re going to have to work hard to keep her off the boards and limit second shots," Harrigan said. "But I don’t think it’s going to be a situation of us not having the players to match up. Our goal is to force them to play a little more up-tempo than they’re comfortable with."
SACRED HEART (31-2) vs. BISHOP AMAT (27-5)
WHEN: Saturday, 1 p.m.
WHERE: Arco Arena, Sacramento