Girls Basketball: St. Ignatius pulls away late against Sacred Heart Cathedral

St. Ignatius senior guard Raquel Avila drives past Sacred Heart Cathedral sophomore Briannah Smith on Tuesday at USF's War Memorial Gymnasium. (Photo by Devin Chen)

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.

St. Ignatius junior forward Maria Kemiji-McDonald rises up for a layup on Tuesday at USF's War Memorial Gymnasium. (Photo by Devin Chen)

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.”

Scoring Leaders

St Ignatius
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

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14 Comments

  1. Irishpride says:

    Falling to the bottom, that’s what’s become of the SHC girls team. They are so quick to move up a freshman to the varsity level because they appear to display some “skill” instead of making them earn the right thru hard work and getting some experience. Harrigan left when the talent pool was depleted. Now that Oscar Jimenez has passed away Mission Rec isn’t supplying anymore talent to SHC. They lack fundamentals that lead to succes in other areas of the game. Carey cut Gabby Vitug, a player on the JV level her freshman and sophomore years who could handle the basketball but didn’t move her to varsity when he became coach last year. Miller and Lugtu appear lazy on defense and don’t display the same offensive skills when they were playing for Mission Rec AAU ball. The whole team could be better conditioned because they look tired trying to pressure the whole game and that lead to defensive breakdowns. It will be a long time before SHC returns to the top of the WCAL

  2. Irish/MRC Pride says:

    In response to IrishPride— perhaps the caliber of girls currently on the team come short of the talent of Harrigan’s dream team had, however, the MRC girls’ are solid squads that have above average talent. These girls have been together since 5th grade, and strive on a run n’ gun defense. Unfortunately, Carey doesn’t know how to utilize his team. Imagine receiving a brand new stick shift Porsche and having no idea how to maneuver the car. Eventually the transmission is burnt out and you’re left with a ruined brand new Porsche. Carey is way over his head – he has no idea the talent that sits on his bench. He refuses to use his big girls at the same time, and plays favorites to 3rd string players. His freshman point guard is rock-solid, and shooting guards (there is more than one) are respectable when given enough playing time. He undervalues the players he has on his bench and lets them run around clueless on the court. Oscar Jimenez hand picked most of these girls’ on his HS team, and if you would see them play, they don’t close what you saw at Bruce Mahoney. It’s a shame to know Carey has a pristine team and left out in the cold to rust and lose its value. Keep your head up girls’ and keep fighting till the end – you have nothing to be embarrassed about or let anyone tell you lack talent, skill and lazy.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dont Worry them SF Rebels will supply SHC girls team with the talent they need to run the WCAL. SHC will be back on top in due time. Go IrishPride. But as far as the Coach of the SHC girls team he could have better luck finding a new job,….not a great coach

  4. Hoop Fan says:

    Irish/MRC Pride — Your absolutely right I have seen some of these girls play for MRC a few times over the years and never seen them play so sloppy and non-aggressive, coaching is huge at that this level and Carey clearly can’t cut it. I sat next to couple coaches at Mahoney game think they said they were AAA coaches and both of them said some of these girls he was bringing off the bench wouldn’t make their varsity team! I also think they need a true point guard who will get the ball to their shooters and to the post earlier in the offense rather than trying to always go 1-1. Ball handling and basic fundamentals are lacking on this team 27 TO’s is way too much to win in the WCAL.

  5. Irishpride says:

    I remember when Miller and Lugtu played at Mission Rec (5th grade) and what a difference the coach has done to turn these to players into lackluster players from using them the wrong way to not running an offense efficiently. My apologies if it came across as being mean spirited about calling them lazy but the way they played that night was not the caliber of play that i have seen from these two young women in the past.

    I can’t believe all the turnovers I saw that night! Ok I know Lauula has some skills but shouldn’t Miller be the point guard to slash and kick it out to lauula(who can drive or stop n pop) and Lugtu(who can it the 3). Like another poster said AAU ball and WCAL league play are different types of playing. Maybe the run in gun style works more in AAU play but not for the WCAL. The teams that Harrigan had could impose whatever they wanted to do with the teams in the league especially on their long winning streak. I don’t see this current team, even last year’s team doing that to the better teams in league play. Their lack of size is going to hurt them some until some of the other players start being smarter at how the game is played. most of them played together at MRC but you wouldn’t know that by how they played that night and have the Rebels even won a national AAU title especially with the talent over the years that they have had? Also so MRC is the feeder for all players to play at SHC? What about other girls at the school? Are they not even given a fair shot or chance to play but see that there is preference given to those girls from MRC?

    Hey no doubt we as fans have been spoiled by past success and want a return to that but I just don’t see that happening anytime soon. I am sorry but there isn’t a Russell, Moore, Rodgers, the Jacksons, Crissy D, Georgia O, A. Christ, Beard, Richen, and all the other great players that they have had on the team.

  6. Anonymous says:

    @IrishPrid – The majority of players you listed either came from MRC and/or other club level teams. There are non club/MRC players on the girls’ varsity team. Without being offensive to any of the players and families, they lack a great deal of talent and basketball knowledge. Ever imagine how difficult it is for club players to play with non-club level players? I’m certain SHC can build a team of non-club level players, but you and others will continue to be disappointed of the lack of talent. Win or lose, these players are trying the best they can with the lack of coaching and resources available. Indeed AAU ball and WCAL ball is at opposite end of the gamut. If run n’ gum is their style a coach should be able to work with it or change it to his likes. Sadly the SHC squad has no leader and direction. This is a young team with strong hearts and they are regressing with each game. Perhaps Harrigan had the ability to impose his defense and offense to his liking because he knew what defense and offense to manipulate. I didn’t see the girls’ team call out one play? Do they even exist on the girls’ team? Also, Harrigan didn’t think twice of using all his talented players. We all rejoiced his dream team back in the days, many of them made up of all MRC girls. Why not use the same thinking now?

  7. FAN says:

    Winning a national AAU title doesn’t define a good or bad team. Most of these girls have played toe-to-toe with first-rate teams from the mid-west, south and east coast. I agree the spectacle that took place the night of Bruce Mahoney was a horrendous – 27 turnovers, air balls and missed shots was dreadful to watch. But I’ve seen these girls play under pressure and they do well. Size has always been an issue with SH, that won’t get resolved overnight. For the meantime, we work with what we have. We refine fundamentals and allow the team to feel comfortable on the court.

  8. SHC Alumni says:

    What happened to Toni Russell wasn’t she an assistant last year? She would get these girls in shape and playing good basketball again if she was the coach. It’s only one game girls so move on and be ready for the next one.

  9. IC Stars says:

    I wonder where Toni Russell went too. She didn’t get that USF degree for nothing so she’s probably too busy to coach. I wouldn’t fault Mike Carey though, he knows the system as well as Harrigan did. We just don’t have the same level of talent we’ve had for years.

  10. Irish Fan for Years says:

    I have seen the highs and the lows through the years and have always tried to keep high school basketball in perspective. My child played high school ball and spent quite a bit of her time on the bench. I had my opinions but always took the high, mature and adult road and keep my negative thoughts to myself. I know that at least one of the posters is a parent hiding behind their posting name. And I believe that the parent lets all of this negativity out in front of their child. Think about what that brings to the team . . .
    I have lived through the days of Coach Brian and believe me, it was not all glory. There were seasons where I gave him so many kudos for sticking with it due to the lack of support and negativity.
    The season has just begun. I go the the games for the men and women of SHCP and cheer for them and keep my comments to myself. Let’s go girls and show them that you deserve to be there!

    • jbalan says:

      @Irish Fan for Years

      Thanks for changing the tone of the comments… We probably should have done so a bit sooner…

  11. Tracy McCray says:

    Having watched the game on comcast last night, I was dismayed at the play of girls. Turnovers (a lot!), breakdowns on defense, breakdowns on offense and the overall play was painful to watch. Kudos to SI for playing a great game on both ends of the floor. I do disagree with the announcers saying that SHC was reloading its team. Sorry to me they are rebuilding. As a former player for Jimenez and Harriagan way back at St. Rose Academy (early 80’s for you younger folks), I can see both of them going beet red at all the mistakes made on the court. Having read the comments from the posters, I get the feeling that they expect the level of play to be that much higher or better given that most of the players have AAU experience and have played together for quite some time.

    As most of you know basketball is one of those year around sports, from playing for your school to playing for your AAU team nowadays, not unlike when I played except we played year around with our school and park and rec. I have been fortunate to watch many of the players from their team at grammar school, MRC and now high school. Do I have opinions on how they should be playing? Of course, but I am not the coach, I am a fan. I can tell you that Jimenez and Harriagan did not have teams that didn’t play hard every single game. Yes some where not as talented as others but fundementals and playing smart were always stressed everytime the team stepped out on the court. There are going to be growing pains with a new coach and new players so only time will tell on how good or bad they will be.

  12. FAN says:

    I’m glad the tone of the postings has changed. We tend to forget these girls are high school athletes that try to improve with each game. Regardless of their sports background let’s applaud the endless hours they put into the sport mentally and emotionally. Many of these girls play for the love of the sport, not for the glory, hence, parents and critics love to point out their weakness. I personally feel it’s disrespectful to name players on the blog. Many of these girls need our positive reinforcement. Some athletes’ thrive on pain and others shut down. If I saw my daughter’s name being thrown around, especially by a person who strongly felt she wasn’t doing her part, I would be extremely hurt. Only the athlete has the right to show disapproval for their actions. After all it’s the athlete that attends practice, plays during the game, and works their hardest to try to do the best they can. There is still time to improve and grow. Lets show some support to these remarkable student/athletes.

  13. IC Stars says:

    Gael Force will return.

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