Anyone who has seen the St. Ignatius boys’ basketball team play this season has most likely witnessed the following play at some point:
Wildcats forward Alex Brown plucking a defensive rebound among a host of bodies, speeding down the floor on the dribble through a maze of defenders and finally whipping a no-look pass to a wide open teammate for a score.
The aforementioned examples of Brown’s all-around floor acumen are a main reason SI is 22-7 this season and has earned a spot in Saturday’s Central Coast Section Division III final. The second-seeded Wildcats face rival and top-seeded Riordan at 4 p.m. at Santa Clara University. And his success is all the more exceptional considering the limited role he played with the Wildcats in 2005-06.
"When Alex got playing time last season, it was usually as our third-string center," Wildcats coach Tim Reardon said. "We knew he was going to work hard during the offseason because that’s just how he is, but we were really surprised at how much better his ball-handling abilities and guard skills improved."
Reardon may have been pleasantly surprised by Brown’s development, but the senior guard had always been confident he would get a chance to thrive for the Wildcats.
"At SI, you sit your junior year and you play your senior year," the 6-foot-3 Brown said. "I knew coming into this season that I would get some opportunities to play and I made sure that I worked hard to get better. During summer league play, my teammates and I really developed a good chemistry, so it wasn’t a surprise that we would be playing this well together."
On a team loaded with talent, Brown provides the intangibles — filling in whatever gaps necessary for the team by averaging eight points and five rebounds a game and shooting 52 percent from the field — but those statistics only tell a small portion of his worth.
"Alex is probably our best passer on the team and he always guards the opposing team’s top scorer," Reardon said. "When he’s out there, we usually listen to what he says and if he thinks he can shut down somebody defensively, we let him go after it."
A prime example of Brown’s defensive effectiveness came in the Wildcats 52-45 victory over Burlingame in the section semifinals on Wednesday.
Louay Obeidi, Burlingame’s 6-5 forward, torched SI for 12 first-half points, but in the second half, with Brown guarding him, he managed just one basket.
No matter the result Saturday, the Wildcats are assured a trip to NorCals. But having already lost to Riordan three times this season, SI has one thing in mind.
"We know they’re a great team and we think match up pretty well with them," said Brown, who scored 10 points and dished out five assists against Burlingame. "We’re confident we can play with them and we know that if we come out and execute, everything should take care of itself."
At Santa Clara University
» Girls: No. 1 Sacred Heart Cathedral (24-2) vs. No. 2 St. Ignatius (21-6), 2 p.m.
» Boys: No. 1 Riordan (28-2) vs. No. 2 St. Ignatius (22-7), 4 p.m.