Sacred Heart united in drive for state title

The call comes down from the crowd before every Sacred Heart Cathedral girls’ basketball game, marked as much by its timing as its volume.

As the gym gets quiet prior to the opening tip, Trina Easley-Jackson — the mother of Irish starters Jazmine and Kamilah Jackson — unleashes a “Go Irish!” chant that simply can’t be ignored.

“Of course we all hear it. How can you not?” Jazmine Jackson said. “And she knows to wait for the quietest moment. Then it’s ‘There’s mom.’”

That rallying cry — along with the parents, siblings and other family members and friends of many of the Sacred Heart players — has followed the team all over the state and as far as Arizona and Oregon this season.

The Irish (32-0), ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today, will play for their third consecutive state championship today at 1 p.m. when they face Magnolia of Anaheim (27-6) at Sacramento’s Arco Arena. And Sacred Heart’s support group has been there every step of the way — armed with rental cars and video cameras.

“Everyone knows to meet up in one area [of the stands],” Easley-Jackson said. “And we watch together. Like a big family.”

One of the remarkable things about the Irish players is how well a team full of stars shares the ball and plays selflessly. The parents have bought into the same team-first philosophy, never complaining to coach Brian Harrigan as they have watched Sacred Heart win 55 games in a row.

Ernie Boggs, father of junior forward Ashley Boggs, has not missed a game all season. The engineer said that when he was interviewing with his employer, he emphasized that coaching and watching his five children play basketball was a priority.

“And they’ve always given me the time off to go,” Boggs said. “Whether it’s using vacation time or having an understanding boss, most people just figure out a way.”

The families and players have had to bond together through tragedy this year as Terrell “Terray” Rogers, the father of star junior Tierra Rogers, was shot and killed outside the gym during halftime of a game. Sandra Bell, the mother of injured Pepperdine-bound guard Lauren Bell, said it is still “surreal” going to games without Terrell Rogers in the stands.

“We’re going to really miss Terray this weekend,” Bell said. “It will be a very emotional week and game for a lot of reasons.”

melliser@examiner.com

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