Boys Basketball: Riordan’s cold streak too much to overcome against St. Ignatius

St. Ignatius senior guard Johnny Mrlik drives past a Riordan defender on Wednesday at St. Ignatius Prep. (Photo by Devin Chen)

By Jeremy Balan

After playing its best stretch of basketball all year, visiting Archbishop Riordan High School had a 18-14 lead midway through the second quarter over favored St. Ignatius on Wednesday.

But then the Crusaders went cold — ice cold.

They would not score another point in the half, and St. Ignatius went on a 13-0 run to take a 27-18 lead into the break, before cruising to a 54-38 West Catholic Athletic League win.

Riordan senior guard Aaron Anderson rises up for a contested jump shot against St. Ignatius on Wednesday at St. Ignatius Prep. (Photo by Devin Chen)

The Crusaders (7-9, 1-5) would continue to struggle in the third quarter, scoring only six points, and allowed St. Ignatius to open up a 37-24 lead heading into the fourth. Riordan shot just over 26 percent from the field in the game, including just over 12 percent from three-point range.

“I haven’t seen a cold spell like that, except when I’m shooting on Sundays in open gym,” said Riordan head coach Rich Buckner. “We know shooting is a weakness of ours, so we try to work on it every single day, and I know the kids are frustrated, because we haven’t seen the results yet.”

While Riordan struggled to hit open shots, a lot of its offensive woes had to do with another impressive performance by the St. Ignatius (11-5, 3-3) defense, which switched seemingly at random from zone to man-to-man to confuse the Riordan attack.

“We did a great job of keeping them off balance,” said St. Ignatius head coach John DeBenedetti. “Part of it was us closing out and part of it was them not shooting well. You put that together, and they’re not going to score and we can go on a run.”

Leading all scorers was St. Ignatius senior guard Johnny Mrlik, who extended a streak of double-digit scoring performances with an efficient and effective 21 points and 11 rebounds.

Mrlik shot 4-of-7 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from three-point range, and shot 10-of-10 from the free throw line.

“This year, I’m definitely going to the basket more and creating more opportunities at the line,” Mrlik said. “I shoot 50 [free throws] a night and I expect to make 95 percent of them. If you spend that much time working on it, you expect to make them.”

What was most impressive about Mrlik’s performance was how he made the best of his few opportunities against a tight Riordan man-to-man defense that was specifically designed to limit his influence.

“I’ll take that efficiency any time,” DeBenedetti said. “They were trying to shut him down and that’s going to happen more and more going through league and through this season, because he’s such a dynamic player.”

Sophomore forward Stephen Domingo also had a double-double for the Wildcats, with 12 points and 10 rebounds, but they got a scare from Riordan late, as the Crusaders full-court pressure in the fourth quarter forced six turnovers, allowing them to cut the lead to 42-34 midway through the frame.

But the Wildcats again went on a run (this time 12-4 to end the game) and put the game out of reach.

“My heart was in my throat with that craziness in the fourth quarter,” DeBenedetti said. “They started to turn up the pressure and we’re not used to playing against that type of defense. It was great how we responded though.”

The only Riordan player to finish in double digits in scoring was senior guard Aaron Anderson, who had a team-high 11 points and six rebounds while playing with an illness that caused him to miss school on Tuesday.

During timeouts and breaks in action Anderson was visibly fatigued and left the bench several times to try to shrug off his sickness.

“He shouldn’t have been in school today either, but the only reason he did was to try to tough it out for the game tonight,” Buckner said. “I don’t even know if he was 75 percent. I don’t want to make excuses, but when you don’t have your best player firing on all cylinders, it’s just tough.”

Scoring Leaders

St. Ignatius
Johnny Mrlik – 21
Stephen Domingo – 12
E.J. Silvia – 10
Albert Waters – 7
Mat Collins – 4

Aaron Anderson – 11
Jordan Dougherty – 6
Anthony Castillo – 5
Three players tied with 4 points

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Johnny Drama says:

    A nice win against a team they should have beat. What happened to Riordan athletics in general? 3 Years ago they won CCS in football and basketball? How quickly things change.

  2. Roll Cats says:

    From the middle of the 2nd quarter on, there was no question as to who was the dominant team. Perhaps the most impressive part about tonight’s game was the point guard play from Albert Waters. Waters hustled around the floor on defense and the crowd was privy to his exceptional quickness which contributed to steals and fast break points (a rarity for the Cats) last night. After watching the last few games, no defensive formula has stifled Johnny Mrlik who leads the WCAL in scoring with 19 PPG. Even as teams turn up the heat on Mrlik, he still finds ways to score. With Mrlik on, the defense playing well, and role players like Waters and Silvia stepping up, the Wildcats look almost impossible to stop sometimes. Though undefeated at home, another significant test comes next Wednesday night against Serra in the “Beach Game”. Can’t wait to see that one! Roll Cats

  3. SI Cats says:

    Things run in cycles. I remember back in ’99 when SI, after beating Tyson Chandler-led Dominguez HS in a Vegas holiday tournament, that SI was ranked as high as #8 in nation by USA Today.

    Nice to see that there rarely is a school that dominates year-in, year-out in WCAL. Too tough a league.

    I’m sure Riordan will come back.

  4. Cats pride says:

    Good game, I just have a question for anyone who was at the game. It seemed like when Riordan started to press Coach Debenedetti pulled out a true point guard. He had Mrlick, and Nick Johnson in, but with so many (at least 4 PG’s on the bench (waters, pappas, quintana, kung among others who rarely get time)) point guards why does he have no true ball handler. I’m not saying Mrlick can’t dribble but at times he made pretty sloppy passes that went out of bounds to people who were wide open underneath the hoop. I feel like whenever a team presses (happened against SH as well) he wants mrlick bringing up the ball.

    Any thoughts, comments, insight would be helpful here.

  5. Roll Cats says:

    @ Cats Pride. I completely agree with the point guard situation. Among all the point guards you listed, you forgot Kevin O’Connor and who could blame you. The kid barely plays yet he was a JV starter last year and has great success whenever he’s in the game (St. Francis 5 mins/ 8 points). Against the press, a lineup of two ball handlers, (O’Connor/Waters/Quintana/Pappas/Sangiacomo/Kung/anyone who plays guard at SI) Mrlik, and Domingo, and a big man (Silvia, Aguilar, Collins) would be hard to stop. Not to mention another shooter in Johnson. Two ball handlers, two spot up shooters, and a big man to break the press and the Wildcats would be set. The Wildcats have incredible talent this year, and it would be great to see them dominate a high-pressure defense.

  6. IC Stars says:

    Sure is quiet from the Riordan front. Wasn’t a word about this game on Norcal Preps either. Hmmm……

  7. SF Prep Fan says:

    What about SH beating Serra. Nice to see City teams beating their Penninsula rivals. When the Irish shoot well they’re pretty tough. Should make for very competitive next game with SI. Heard Buckner did great coaching job as Riordan was undermanned and timely press made game much closer than it should have been. Agree having a point guard is better against the press, but saw SI tall lineup break press with the pass against SH and didn’t turn the ball over. Saw stats – Mrlik had 2 TOs in 4Q, 7 assists overall, 3.5 A/TO ratio is good metric for ball handler. Nice to hear Waters had impactful game, can’t help but love his speed, toughness and ability to disrupt. Believe he and Quintana to be notch above O’connor, who is a good option to have.

  8. Johnny Drama says:

    @IC Stars: of course it’s quiet on the Riordan front, similar to how it was on the SHC front after the BM game. There is nothing left to say after a loss to the Cats!!! At least the Riordan fans aren’t blaming their coach and making excuses as to why they lose as we’ve been hearing for 17 out of the last 20 years from Ellis Street.

  9. IC Stars says:

    Well I don’t see how they can blame coaching considering there’s a State Championship trophy in the trophy case but the players have to have some confidence in themselves. Just watch, they’ll win the second hoop game and both baseball games because their self-imposed pressure will be off. They should play above their heads and not be intimidated by a team named after a litter box user.

  10. HSportsfan says:

    this was a great win…not to mention a great player on the Freshman A team who should be on varsity as well. The kid Trevor Dunbar…known as one of the best for his age group. cant wait to see what he does next year. SI basketball is exciting

  11. Roll Cats says:

    SI basketball is exciting! 15 point victory over Valley tonight, got to gear up for Serra now. SI is undefeated at home and the players and fans will go all out to keep it this way for the rest of the year. Roll Cats!

  12. insulation says:

    its funny that shc is a game ahead of si. and cmon valley christian are the worst team in the league

  13. Basketball Fan says:

    Only a 15 point victory over VC. Come on Cats I’m sure u could of done way better than that. VC is the worst team in the WCAL. Serra vs SI should be a good game. Get your meow on.

  14. IC Stars says:

    “its funny that shc is a game ahead of si. and cmon valley christian are the worst team in the league”

    Funnier when SHC is two games ahead of “si” come Wednesday.

Leave a Comment

Comments that advocate violence, racism, or libel, as well as comments featuring profanity will not be permitted. Repeat offenders will have their commenting privileges suspended. All comments must abide by our Commenting Code of Conduct.