As 2018 winds down, it’s worth revisiting the year of high school sports in San Francisco that saw so many great moments that a few of them could easily slip through the cracks behind storylines like Lincoln football’s first state championship in school history.
On the hardwood, fans were graced with three Northern California champions in the Stuart Hall boys, and the girls from both Lowell and Sacred Heart Cathedral. Stuart Hall’s hopes of even reaching the state tournament were in doubt after a listless performance in an NCS quarterfinal loss to St. Mary’s-Albany, but the Knights got in the tournament as the ninth seed in Division IV and unleashed a remarkable run. After a two-point win over Sacramento-Foothill, the Knights took down top-seeded Santa Cruz and then got a home game against 12th-seeded Liberty Ranch in the regional semifinals, coming away with a 72-57 win.
Trailing Albany-St. Mary’s by 17 at the half in a NorCal regional championship rematch, Miles Amos’ 23 points fueled a monster comeback as the Knights forced overtime despite a controversial technical foul call, as an Amos basket in the final moments tied the score at 53. Stuart Hall then outscored the host Panthers 15-9 in the extra period to advance to a state championship game for the first time in school history. Though the Knights did lose that game to View Park, it laid the foundation for what should be one of the best years in program history, and introduced the world to Nigel Burris, who has established himself as one of the best members of the class of 2021 in Northern California.
The Lowell girls and SHC girls both came up short in their section playoffs, but went on sensational runs to win their ownNorCal titles. Lowell won three games at home and one at Kezar Pavilion, against top-seeded University, to win the NorthernCalifornia Division V title, while the Fightin’ Irish girls came out of nowhere after a sub-.500 regular season to knock off seventh-seeded Heritage and second-seeded Eastside College Prep before smothering fourth-seeded Miramonte, 69-48, to win the regional title.
The St. Ignatius boys were ousted by league foe Mitty in the second round of the CIF Division I Tournament, but what will make 2018 most memorable for the Wildcats will be their performance in rivalry games. SI won a third consecutive Bruce-Mahoney basketball game over Sacred Heart Cathedral, 68-61, and the ‘Cats swept Serra for the first time since 2001, conquering the Jungle with a 70-61 win in San Mateo and handing the Padres their worst WCAL loss since 2009 in the Beach Game, a 68-40 beatdown, punctuated by Teddy Snyder’s highlight-reel dunk from Brandon Beckman.
The St. Ignatius boys’ soccer team won the Northern California Open Division title, and the University and Leadership boys also made regional title game appearances. The Lowell girls were Division IV champions with an overtime win over Ripon.
Baseball in San Francisco was a mix of the old guard and some fresh faces running the show, as Lowell won a sixth straight AAA title by taking down a new challenger, Mission. Star junior C.J. Pino fueled a resurgent Mission program, but the Cardinals took down Washington in the semifinals and then the Bears in the championship at AT&T Park, shutting out both teams behind the pitching of Alex Bradshaw and Owen Mahoney.
The fall was dominated, of course, by Lincoln football’s sensational 13-0 run, but Sacred Heart Cathedral had a great season across the board. The Irish baseball team had finished the 2017-18 school year off by claiming the Bruce-Mahoney Trophy from rival St. Ignatius in walk-off fashion, and the football team picked up from there. The Irish beat both SI and Riordan for a second consecutive year and picked up their first playoff win since 2011, shutting out Live Oak 20-0. They did so with style, through Anthony Heard’s relentless rushing attack and the defensive efforts of 5-foot-5 Evan Dere, one of the most captivating football players San Francisco has ever seen.
Perhaps the most compelling story of all, though, was the SHC girls volleyball team. There was finally a changing of the guard atop the WCAL as the Fightin’ Irish took down Mitty and won all three battles with St. Ignatius (and Duke-bound Lizzie Fleming), including a heart-stopping five-set victory in the CCS Open Division Championship Game after dropping the first two sets. The Irish went on to earn the top seed in all of Northern California, beating Ponderosa in the first round in five sets before finally bowing out against Central-Fresno.
As winter begins, Riordan has put together arguably its most talented basketball team since the Marquise Kately-led 2002 state champions, with the endless swagger of guard Je’Lani Clark, the offensive skills of Bryce Monroe and the incredible Zach Quanico, the 5-foot-7 shot-blocking wonder. Riiny Riiny, the 6-foot-9 junior from South Sudan, rounds out a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters.
The Sacred Heart Cathedral boys’ basketball team got off to an impressive 6-2 start through tremendous team basketball. The St. Ignatius girls have terrific talent in seniors Maddie Ennis and Rachel Harvey and the boys are looking to prove themselves behind Wrenn Robinson and Neal Begovich.
Finally, there’s a chance for Mission to be toppled in the AAA, as legendary coach Carl Jacobs and freshman point guardJordan Aquino have brought Lincoln back onto the scene.