By Ernest Stone
Kaitlyn Crowley was automatic on Friday night.
Dropping 24 points in front of her home crowd against Presentation, Crowley booked a 64-57 win for her team, took over first place in the West Catholic Athletic League standings, and dominated her opponent so thoroughly that its best chance of preventing her from scoring was sending her to the free throw line.
“The team shot the lights out,” said Presentation head coach Wade Nakamura. “We weren’t able to do anything on defense to take away their confidence, and hats off to them for going to work like they did.”
St. Ignatius (16-4, 6-2) went to work right away by running the fast break and beginning the game on a 6-0 run. Yet following a 7-0 counter-run from the Panthers (15-5, 6-2), the game took to a slower speed for the better part of the night.
While the two teams traded points for much of the game, the Wildcats’ ability to nail clutch shots proved to be the deciding factor.
One key surge came at the end of the second quarter, when bench player Stacey Ward nailed a layup and a three pointer to break a tie and send the Wildcats into halftime with a 32-27 lead.
“We had so many great efforts tonight,” said St. Ignatius head coach Mike Mulkerrins. “We didn’t really turn the ball over, Stacey hits those big shots, and on defense we did a couple things in the second half to make their star Joesetta Fatuesi feel uncomfortable.”
After surrendering 12 points to the freshman standout in the first half, the Wildcats sent a weak side defender to double team Fatuesi in the key once she received an entry pass. The difference was clear, as Fatuesi scored just two points in the third quarter.
Yet, just as Fatuesi was being taken out of her game, Panthers forward Nici Gilday picked up the slack, scoring a season-high 22 points in the wake of her teammate’s struggles.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, Crowley’s second-half production was nearly impossible to deal with. Crowley finished the third quarter with six points, and with the help of her teammates, St. Ignatius found itself up 46-39 heading into the final quarter of play.
In the fourth quarter, Crowley ended all hopes of a comeback by nailing nine free throws to push her second-half tally to 17 points and seal the game.
Both teams enter the final four games of the WCAL season with identical records, but Friday night’s win moved St. Ignatius to 2-0 against the Panthers this season and may have assured its status as the top team in the league
“Our crowd tonight really gave us some energy,” Crowley said. “We knew they were a good team, but we did our best to stick to our game plan, and that gives us a great chance to beat anybody.”
Kaitlyn Crowley – 24
Maria Kemiji-McDonald – 16
Courtney Gong – 7
Raquel Avila – 6
Stacey Ward – 5
Nici Gilday – 22
Joesetta Fatuesi – 21
Chelsea Punian – 8
Molly Pearson – 4
Courtney Danna – 2