By John Blomster
Behind superior ball-handling and a trio of standout starters’ full-court authority, St. Ignatius Prep defeated visiting Campolindo High School of Moraga 67-53 in the first round of the CIF Division III State Championship Tournament on Tuesday night.
Seniors Eilise O’Connor, Caroline Barrack and Marissa Williams combined for 38 points and helped the Wildcats (20-9) smother the Campolindo offense.
With the win, the Wildcats advance to the second round of the Northern California Bracket to face second-seeded Sacramento High School (25-6) on Thursday.
“Having an aggressive defense makes it easy for the offense,” said St. Ignatius Head Coach Michael Mulkerrins. “We just didn’t want to let them to get in a rhythm [or] shoot a lot of threes.”
St. Ignatius used a full-court, man-to-man defense for the entire game and thwarted the Cougars (20-10) whenever they pulled within striking range.
Campolindo pulled within a point of the lead first in the second quarter and again in the third, but each time, the Wildcats pulled off a crucial defensive stop went on subsequent nine- and seven-point runs respectively, never once surrendering the advantage.
The Wildcats also coaxed 29 Campolindo turnovers while surrendering only 10 of their own.
Defensively, the Cougars focused their strategy on O’Connor, the Wildcats’ offensive leader, holding her to a relatively low 10 points, but St. Ignatius took advantage of the constant double-teams and primarily used O’Connor to open up open shots for other shooters all over the court.
“We were trying to get the ball out of O’Connor’s hands,” said Campolindo Head Coach Clay Kallam. “Defensively, we did mostly what we wanted to do, but [St. Ignatius is] a good offensive rebounding team and they wanted the loose balls more than we did.”
Barrack had a game-high 18 points, with Williams adding 10 of her own. Sophomore guard Kaitlyn Crawley came off the bench early with 11 points in the contest.
“The playoffs are a fresh start for us,” said Barrack, who was a part of the Wildcats’ loss to Valley Christian in the CIF-Central Coast Section Division III finals Saturday. “We just came out here and gave it everything we had.”
St. Ignatius took a quick 10-2 lead and led the rest of the way, outscoring the Cougars in every quarter. The Wildcats led 31-21 at the half and extended their lead in the final quarters, holding off a 19 point Campolindo onslaught in the fourth by taking advantage of 10 fouls to put up 22 points, 8 of which from the free throw line.
“We’re excited, but we feel like our jobs not finished,” said Mulkerrins. “We’re not going up to Sacramento just for the bus ride.”