Boys Basketball: St. Ignatius holds off Riordan to get back to winning ways

St. Ignatius senior guard Johnny Mrlik drives past a Riordan defender on Thursday at Archbishop Riordan High School. (Photo by Devin Chen)

By Bonta Hill

Stepping into a charged-up Crusader Forum with a three game losing streak hanging over its head, St. Ignatius knew it wouldn’t be easy getting back into the win column.

The Wildcats survived a spirited effort from Riordan, however, holding off the Crusaders in a 55-47 win in West Catholic Athletic League play on Thursday.

Riordan senior guard Aaron Anderson (left) goes up for a contested shot against St. Ignatius sophomore forward Stephen Domingo on Thursday at Archbishop Riordan High School. (Photo by Devin Chen)

St. Ignatius (15-8, 7-6) got solid contributions from Stephen Domingo, who had a game-high 21 points to go along with seven rebounds, and Johnny Mrlik, who scored 15 points with five assists, but the 11 points the Wildcats received from forward Antonio Aguilar were the biggest for the Wildcats.

Aguilar’s six points in the final frame gave the Wildcats enough cushion to stave off Riordan’s final rally and taste victory for the first time in two weeks.

“Johnny Mrlik stepped up in the second quarter and got us going, Domingo did a great job and Antonio Aguilar did a fantastic job,” said St. Ignatius head coach John DeBenedetti. “When they put pressure on us, the key was wide open and we did a good job of finding [Aguilar].”

For Riordan (8-15, 2-11), it was another tough defeat, but the Crusaders played with a lot of emotion in front of their home crowd.

Senior guards Aaron Anderson and Brandon Edison, both playing in their final regular season home game for the Crusaders, almost willed their team to victory.

Anderson had a team-high 18 points and Edison added 12 on four three-pointers, including three in the second half, the last cutting the Wildcats lead to 47-45 with 2:49 left in the game, forcing DeBenedetti to call a timeout.

“At that point there we just wanted to break their momentum,” DeBenedetti said. “I told the team we we’re fine, we’re ahead and lets just execute. I thought we responded really well.”

But it wasn’t enough, as the Crusaders couldn’t overcome shooting 35 percent from the floor, dropping their second game to their crosstown rivals.

“My mind was just on winning the game, doing the best I could do,” Anderson said. “I really wish I could have one more year this team. I’m proud of them though, this team is like a family.”

Riordan held its own from the start, leading 12-8 lead early in the second frame, but St. Ignatius then went on an 11-0 run to go up 19-12, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the game.

Mrlik scored the Wildcats last 11 points in the first half, and St. Ignatius shot 57 percent in the first half, but only led 27-21.

Domingo opened the second half on fire, scoring eight points as the Wildcats went up 39-30. The Crusaders would claw their way back into it, going down 39-35 going into the fourth quarter.

Edison sank two consecutive three-pointers to bring Riordan within 41-40, but as it did all game long, St. Ignatius would respond with that pivotal 6-0 run, and the Wildcats headed back to the Sunset with a much-needed win.

“We expected them to come out fired up. It was their senior night and we expected them to play hard all-around,” Aguilar said. “Both teams played great, but I’m glad we pulled it off.”

Riordan head coach Rich Buckner was obviously down after the loss, as he saw his team fall short in another tight contest, something that’s plagued its season.

Although he was proud of the way his team fought throughout, the disappointment of sending his seniors off without a home victory stung afterward.

“We just can’t get over the hump,” Buckner said. “I really wanted this one for the seniors. Of course it’s our crosstown rival and they wanted it. We talked about their losing streak, we talked about the big home crowd, the band, and utilizing all of that for motivation. It worked, but we just couldn’t get over the hump.”

Scoring Leaders

St. Ignatius
Stephen Domingo – 21
Johnny Mrlik – 15
Antonio Aguilar -11
E.J. Silvia – 4
Albert Waters – 4

Riordan
Aaron Anderson – 18
Brandon Edison – 12
Graham Gilleran – 6
D.J. Harvey – 6
Jordan Dougherty – 5

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24 Comments

  1. Basketball Fan says:

    This was a great game by both teams! Riordan’s fan were pumped up big time. The band was awesome as always (the best in the bay) and some of the Riordan boys painted their face and bodies – so much fun. The crowd was electric but Riordan wasn’t able to finish down the stretch. Good game though and it was exciting to watch!

    Where were the SI fans????

  2. Johnny Drama says:

    A much tougher game than many expected, but a win is a win in the WCAL. I haven’t watched a game at the CRUSADER FORUM in quite some time, and after last night, I will go more often. That was the best environment for a high school game I have seen in years!! Hate to say it, that puts the Cats crowd to shame. The band (which is awesome by the way) and the students with the letters spelling RIORDAN painted on their torso’s, were amazing. Their section was completely full. I was very impressed with what I saw on Phelan. Despite a struggling team, the student’ and families were out showing support. Speaks volume with what is taking place at Riordan. I believe the 6th man (crowd) is what kept Riordan in the game. The team definitely fed off of it.

    Domingo shot the ball great last night. All his points were jumpers or FT’s, no inside points at all. If he develops a post game, this kid will be something. Aguilar was the difference. The shooters for SI were hot so the inside was wide open. Aguilar did a great job of finding the holes in the D and exploiting them. Kid is strong as a bull!

    This was one of the best HS experiences, not game, I have attended in a long long time.

  3. Anonymous says:

    For the SI coaches’ sake i hope SI will go deep in the playoffs!! Otherwise he is gone!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is the 1st winning season for the SI coach, 08-09 WCAL 4-10,9-15 overall, 09-10 2-12 WCAL 11-13 overall. WIth a win against VC on Sat. they are 8-6 WCAL a first since Reardon days. With the talent he has
    should have won more games. His coaching was really questionable numerous times, his untimely substitutions, timeouts, but if SI goes deep during playoffs it would difficult for SI to replace him.

  5. Biggie Big... says:

    The WCAL is the toughest league around and the coaches must be prepared for tough games all the time. I’m very curious why the Aguilar kid doesn’t play more, like the whole game unless foul trouble. I watched him in 4 games this year and SI seemed to be better and more physical with his presence in the game. He could be used for setting screens and banging the boards. It will be interesting what happens after the season with SI deciding to keep the coach or ??? good luck kids…

  6. Johnny Drama says:

    hey @jbalan….I’m making a conscious effort to be nice, I don’t want to be moderated again!!!

    It’s just hard to say anything nice about SHC my man :), especially when they are putting down my beloved CATS!!

  7. Ari Gold says:

    Im not comparing the guy to Kobe but Domingo who is 6’6, if he’s still growing maybe 6’8 when he’s a senior, is going to be a perimeter player in college. Kobe in high school did not post up. If you look at his highlights, he does his damage from the perimeter or by driving to the basket. To ask the guy to play the post, develop post moves is just not using his strengths.

    High school ball is using your athleticism and very little development. Thats what college is for. Plus with his frame, hes not going to be banging down low with 250 lbs guys. He’ll break like a twig.

    Let Domingo run and bring back Bob Anthony’s “ITS SHOWTIME IN THE SUNSET!!!” I would love that especially against SH. Since thats playing into SH’s hands. Run Cats Run!

  8. Roll Cats says:

    Drama… I am astonished that you claim that Riordan put the Cats crowd to shame. You used to strike me as a Cats supporter, but you must have missed the Beach Game against Serra when the crowd actually helped the Cats get a VICTORY. You must have missed the loud crowd against Mitty (VICTORY), the old-school red out in the old gym (VICTORY), the Sand Dune classic crowds (VICTORIES), or even the white out loss against Mitty. Credit to Riordan for putting together a great section last night, but one well attended game does not outshine SI’s crowd production all season.

    As for the game, Riordan double/triple teamed Mrlik which works for a while until the SI players realize that they’re really good and can score too. Domingo was lights out from the floor and it seemed like Riordan shifted his defender to help on Mrlik which didn’t work out too well for them I guess. When he gets going, the whole team gets going which frees up Mrlik who typically takes over games in the second half.

    Finally, ANTONIO AGUILAR. Too bad SI didn’t get a lot of fans out to the game because he’s their crowd favorite and he played phenomenally. Big Tone dominates guys on offense and defense which is why its no surprise he’s getting more time. Great to see him coming along as the playoffs draw closer because SI will be hard to beat with scrappy guys like Tone and E.J. who go hard in the paint! Roll Cats!

  9. Johnny Drama says:

    @Roll Cats, I am a staunch CATS supporter and bleed red and blue! Last night was the first time in the forum for several years and yes, in my opinion, that cheering section was better than anything I’ve seen at SI this year. I’ve been in attendance at almost all the games you mentioned and the crowd last night was much more animated and celebratory than anything at SI this year. That crowd was the best I’ve seen in years for any school. The band tips the scale in their favor, they play an eclectic mix of hits!!! Wasn’t knocking SI but giving major kudos to the Riordan kids.

    Aguilar needs to start, bottom line! He was the reason they beat Mitty, IMO. He is stronger than any big in WCAL. He’s their best interior/post player. I don’t want to speculate why others get more run, but he needs to play 20-25 minutes per game.

    It will be interesting to see if they move up Dunbar for the playoffs. His penetrating/ball handling would be an awesome addition to the CATS’ arsenal. With him running point, they would not be able to double off of Mrlik or Domingo as he can drain the 3 and has a good mid range game. He adds an element they do not currently have.

    The CATS are positioning themselves to make a deep run in CCS where we will meet up with the Irish again.

  10. Roll Cats says:

    @Drama Yes, I agree the Riordan band is quite something and leaves something to be desired for at SI, which claims to have it all. But, I refuse to believe the SI crowd for the Serra game (828 students counted officially by the student council) was a less enthusiastic bunch than the Riordan crowd of last night. Down 25-18 late in the 3rd quarter, Johnny Mrlik ignited the crowd and helped the Cats rise above the Padres 36-33.

    But enough reminiscing about the past, Aguilar is the future in the post, only a junior, and brings an element of passion to the table which is great. Dunbar has significant promise, though the time to bring him up was mid-season not the playoffs. I think Waters and Quintana both handle the ball very effectively and I’m not sure if SI’s offense allows for the point guard to be the all out play maker instead of just a game manager. I do hope Waters and Dunbar will change that role next year. Either way, the playoffs promise a deep run for the Cats. See you there

  11. Cats Fan says:

    @Johnny Drama,

    I’m going to have to strongly disagree with you, too. While Riordan had an impressive crowd last night, I cannot fathom you were at the SI vs. Serra game at SI. Like Roll Cats mentioned, 828 students. We actually broke the bleachers from jumping up and down (now being repaired). Both coaches commented it was one of the loudest and most hostile non-Bruce games they’d ever seen.

    Now, to the team. SHC, Mitty, and St. Francis were tough losses. But SI beat SHC and Mitty too. And in CCS, SHC will be the only other WCAL school in D3 with SI. So watch out for the ‘Cats. They’re a dangerous team come playoff time. Especially as Aguilar comes into his own in the paint.

  12. TheMainMan says:

    Domingo is ridiculously overrated. He had the game of his life last night. I’m not a Riordan guy or an SI guy, but I’ve seen him play a few times. He is way too cocky for his “skill” level.

  13. Johnny Drama says:

    We can agree to disagree gentlemen but we fight the good fight together as CATS for life! I was at the Serra game and that was a great crowd, but, I enjoyed the multi-faceted Riordan crowd more, that is my opinion and I’m sticking with it. The band, the students in paint and the creative cheers made it very enjoyable. Maybe I’m “chillin out” as I age but loud and hostile don’t do it for me anymore. Just my opinion.

    SHC and Burlingame are the only viable threats in CCS, and having defeated both of them, I like our chances. If we were to play Mitty again they would beat us so let’s hope we only meet them in the WCAL finals. Not sure how the brackets line up at this stage. In any regard, things are looking good for the Cats.

  14. Paint says:

    MainMan – you’ve seen him play a few times

  15. Crusader4life says:

    We know all about Aguilar at Riordan. His uncle played ball for us years back. It’s about time they put him in the game. Must be some SI politics to keep him on the bench. Either that or the SI coach is a fool. Maybe both? Aguilar is so much more of a beast than the kid starting. I wouldn’t be surprised if the starting center was a booster’s kid or related to the coach. Oh yeah, Domingo does need to check himself until he gets at least a sniff of an inside game.

  16. Waterboy says:

    Si and Riordan have had disappointing crowds at basketball games for years. Nothing can compare to a PACKED TO THE RAFTERS Kezar Pavilion during my time @ 2001 37th Ave (77-81) SI vs Riordan, Drucker vs Isola, neighborhood bragging rights on the line, those games were all out war, the high school equivalent of Celts Lakers with Bird and Magic. The Bruce Mahoney was a non-event as SH was pretty mediocre for such a long time.

    From 68-94 SI and Riordan accounted for 21 of 26 WCAL titles in hoops, those glory years were a great time to be a fan of City basketball

  17. TheMainMan says:

    Paint- Yes I have seen him a few times. I went to the Bruce (both SH games) and the SI/Riordan games. He can’t dribble or drive. All he does is spot up. He’s 6’7″ so it is easy for him to shoot over kids. He may make it to the next level, so good for him, but he’s nowhere near as good as he thinks he is. I’ve seen him make one shot in a game and he’ll start pointing into the stands and talking to the other team. I wish the young man the best as I root for city athletes to succeed but he needs a a piece of humble pie and he will be better off for it.

  18. Johnny Drama says:

    @Waterboy….AMEN….those days will never be duplicated or replicated. The demographics have significant;y changed in the city since then thus impacting the quality of the local hoop scene. Nowadays, a player like Rob Jones comes around once in a decade, back then, Riordan and SI had 2-3 per year on their roster. It was unbelievable!

  19. jordan24 says:

    back in the day whenver any of the city schools met it was either played at kezar or usf and always brought a packed house. demographics have definitely changed the landscape. domingo needs to take note on players that have improved their games during their hs years – great examples former crusaders are rob jones, jorge camacho, and marquise kately. all three could play down low, defend and shoot from at least 15ft consistently.

  20. coolio says:

    Im a loser and everyone in the past is so awesome

  21. Tom, Dick and Harry says:

    The Main Man, You don’t know, only having seen a few things.

  22. annonymous says:

    Great Job on the story Bonta. Folks arguing about which crowd was better, who cares really it’s just kids of the city being passionate and proud of their schools, and that’s all that should be taken away from it. Old guys on here talking about how it used to be better, well gentlemen that all went out the door when SI went coed now games are half social scenes rather than competitive atmospheres. The reason I look at the Riordan crowd as excellent is because yes I am from Riordan and did not see the SI crowds (which are among the best and my favorite opponents in WCAL) but if you knew how low the school spirit has been at Riordan the past few years you all would understand why that night was so special. Maybe they shouldn’t believe in their team they are not the best team to ever play at Riordan but that is Brotherhood right there. It was a great game with a positive environment. If Riordan gets anymore home games I encourage folks to come out because it’ll be mayhem again.

  23. IC Stars says:

    Coolio is right.

  24. Basketball Fan says:

    It was so much fun to watch Rob Jones, Jorge Camacho, Marquise Kately and John Tofi play ball for Riordan. Also, loved to watch Jones and Drew Gordon battle on the court back in the days.

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