By Bonta Hill
Playing its rival in front of a packed house at USF’s War Memorial Gymnasium, St. Ignatius left no doubt who the best girls’ high school basketball team in San Francisco is.
After a slow first quarter, the Wildcats (13-2, 3-0) broke the game open in the second quarter en route to blowing out Sacred Heart Cathedral 58-29 on Tuesday.
Maria Kemiji-McDonald led St. Ignatius with a game-high 16 points, but the story of the game was the Wildcats’ defense, as it forced Sacred Heart Cathedral (8-5, 1-1) into 27 turnovers.
“I told the team in a game like this, in this atmosphere, it’s the team that calms down first who really has the advantage,” said St. Ignatius head coach Mike Mulkerrins. “Raquel [Avila and] Maria set the tone defensively, we got some easy layups, and when we get layups, it makes things work easy on offense.”
After shooting 4-of-14 in the opening quarter and trailing 9-8, St. Ignatius reeled off a 17-0 run to take a commanding 25-9 lead.
St. Ignatius senior Avila punctuated the first half with a coast-to-coast layup as the buzzer sounded to go into the half leading 27-13. The Wildcats scorched the nets in the frame, shooting 9-of-15 from the floor.
“In the first quarter we weren’t playing our game, we weren’t playing with any [rhythm],” said Avila, who finished with 12 points. “Playing good defense in the second quarter allowed us to get our offense going.”
Sacred Heart, after standing toe-to-toe with St. Ignatius in the first quarter, unraveled in the second. The Irish went 1-of-7 in the quarter, but more importantly, committed nine turnovers. They finished the game shooting 11-of-40 from the field.
“We didn’t take care of the basketball,” said Sacred Heart head coach Mike Carey. “We turned the ball [over] three straight times that [St. Ignatius] turned into six points, and then we came down and shot the ball too quick.”
The hot shooting for St. Ignatius continued in the third quarter as Alex Legarza scored eight points in the frame, and the Wildcats shot 7-of-9 before finishing the game 25-of-50.
After a lackluster victory over St. Patrick/St. Vincent a week ago, the Wildcats have opened West Catholic Athletic League play with three straight victories, including a win over perennial power Presentation on the road.
“The team got the message after the [St. Patrick/St. Vincent game]. They came to practice, worked hard and they believed they could do better,” Mukerrins said. “It’s not me just telling them, they believe they can be better, and here we are. We’re 3-0 in [league], and hopefully it’ll continue.”
Maria Kemiji-McDonald – 16
Raquel Avila – 12
Kaitlyn Crawley – 11
Alex Legarza – 9
Courtney Gong – 7
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Brianna Friedrich – 8
Geanna Summers-Lauula – 6
Geena Giovannetti – 6
T.J. Miller – 4
Briannah Smith – 3