By Jeremy Balan
SANTA CLARA — After trailing for most of the first half, St. Ignatius cut what was an 11-point deficit to 34-32 midway through the third quarter, but what happened next may have signaled the arrival of the City’s next big star in girls basketball.
The response came from Sacred Heart Cathedral freshman guard Geanna Summers-Luaulu, who connected on her last five shots from the floor and had 14 of her game-high 20 points in the second half, as the Irish (16-14) pulled away steadily in a 64-48 win over St. Ignatius in the CIF-Central Coast Section Division III finals on Saturday at Santa Clara University.
“When they were coming back, I just thought, ‘I gotta push it and start scoring,’ because we wanted this game so bad,” Summers-Luaulu said. “Being a freshman, finally getting a win against them, it feels so amazing. It was just so embarrassing after the Bruce-Mahoney.”
What made the result on Saturday so stunning was how the first two matchups between the teams went, with St. Ignatius (22-7) beating Sacred Heart 58-29 and 60-50 in the West Catholic Athletic League season.
For second-year Sacred Heart head coach Mike Carey, the win served as vindication not only the two losses to St. Ignatius, but also the heavy criticism of his own coaching credentials. As the seconds ticked down, Carey was visibly emotional and relieved.
“All I’ve heard is how I’m not [former Sacred Heart head coach] Brian Harrigan,” Carey said. “I was almost crying, because I’m so proud of this team. This is for all the people who came to USF and saw us lose by 29 points and said, ‘Oh he can’t coach. He’s a JV coach, not a varsity coach.'”
While it was Summers-Luaulu’s late burst that left a lasting impression, Sacred Heart senior forward Geena Giovannetti was the Irish’s most constant scoring threat, finishing with 14 points and a team-high 11 rebounds. In what could be her last meeting with St. Ignatius, she was more than happy to send her rivals home with a loss.
“It means everything to us, because we had two tough losses to them already,” Giovannetti said. “We wanted this so bad. I think this one is more important than the other two, so I’d rather have this one.”
St. Ignatius, which has torn through the CCS playoffs, scoring a combined 166 points in their first two tournament games, struggled to hit open jump shots throughout and shot just over 27 percent from the floor in the game and 13-of-22 from the free throw line.
“We knew they were better than what they showed us at USF and we’ve watched them play for the last couple of weeks,” said St. Ignatius head coach Mike Mulkerrins. “They’re young and getting better and better, but the thing is, we couldn’t hit an outside shot. When we can’t hit shots and can’t get to the hole, it’s going to be a long game for us.”
The Wildcats came close in the third quarter, but it was the deficit built in the second, in which Sacred Heart outscored St. Ignatius 13-5, that they couldn’t overcome.
“We’ve been playing really well, but we just didn’t have it today, and unfortunately it was the biggest game of the year,” Mulkerrins said.
By advancing to the championship game, both teams will represent the CCS in the CIF state championship tournament that begins next week.
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Geanna Summers-Luaulu – 20
Geena Giovannetti – 14
T. J. Miller – 10
Dannika Navales-Lugtu – 6
Jerrieza Enriquez – 4
Maria Kemiji-McDonald – 15
Courtney Gong – 9
Raquel Avila – 8
Kaitlyn Crawley – 8
Stacey Ward – 6