By Bonta Hill
When a team shoots 30 percent for the game with 13 turnovers, it’s usually a recipe for a defeat.
But Sacred Heart Cathedral defied that logic in the first round of the West Catholic Athletic League playoffs, as the Irish went 16-of-17 from the free throw line and held off visiting St. Francis in a 51-47 win.
“Free throws have been our Achilles’ heel all year, and finally, in an important game, we hit them when we needed to,” said Sacred Heart head coach Mike Carey.
The Irish (13-11) needed every one of those free throws because the Lancers didn’t look like the team that dropped two double-digit games to Sacred Heart in the regular season.
St. Francis (11-13) hung tough in the first half on the strength of five three-pointers, three by junior Vanessa D’Amico, who finished with a game-high 16 points.
Despite the hot shooting from behind the arc, the Lancers still found themselves down 26-23 at halftime due to the Irish success at the free throw line.
Sacred Heart was perfect in the first half from the line, going 11-for-11, as they struggled from the floor, shooting only 28 percent in the first half.
“We kind of relaxed a little bit and thought we would pull away like we did [earlier this season],” Carey said. “They play aggressive and they have good shooters. [St. Francis] had 17 points at one point and 15 were on threes.”
For most of the third quarter the score was tight, before Irish guard Ciara Silvestri, who finished with 10 points, came off the bench and hit two three-pointers to give Sacred Heart a 40-33 lead going into the final frame.
But the Lancers were not done.
After falling behind 46-36 with 5:18 left, St. Francis made one final surge found themselves down 48-45 with a minute remaining.
Coming out of a timeout, the Lancers would steal an Irish inbounds pass, but Lancer guard Hannah Rogers’ three-point attempt was blocked, and Sacred Heart was on its way to a second-round date with top-seeded Presentation High School.
St. Francis head coach Ashley Hill was proud of her team’s effort, but was also impressed with Sacred Heart’s performance at the free throw line.
“Our team did well, but it came down to free throws and [Sacred Heart] did a great job of finishing [them],” Hill said. “We played solid as a team and we’re just trying to get better for [the CIF-Central Coast Section playoffs].”
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Geanna Luaulu-Summers – 13
Ciara Silvestri – 10
Geena Giovannetti – 8
T.J. Miller – 5
Two tied with 4 points
Vanessa D’Amico – 16
Jennifer Lucian – 6
Four players tied with 4 points