By Bonta Hill
St. Ignatius had two days to simmer in the disappointment of its loss to rival Sacred Heart Cathedral in the CIF-Central Coast Section Division III championship on Saturday.
After soaking in the loss to the Irish, the Wildcats showed no signs of a hangover, jumping all over visiting El Dorado of Placerville by scoring the game’s first ten points en route to a 65-44 romp in the first round of the CIF Division III state championship girls basketball tournament.
Junior forward Maria Kemiji-McDonald led the Wildcats (23-7) with 22 points, 10 of which came during their 16-2 run in the first frame, to help St. Ignatius advance to the second round to face fourth-seeded Paradise on the road Thursday.
“Not to take any credit away from Sacred Heart, but our kids really wanted the [CCS title], and Sacred Heart beat us to what we really wanted to get,” said St. Ignatius head coach Mike Mulkerrins. “Now we know that we’re in the last phase of the season, and if we lose, we’re out. We want to make this a special run.”
The Wildcats led throughout the contest, but got a scare in the third quarter.
El Dorado (24-5), the Sierra Valley League champions and Sac-Joaquin Section semifinalists, went on a 6-0 run that cut the Wildcats’ lead to 39-31 with 3:32 left in the frame.
But Mulkerrins called a timeout to settle his team down, and in the next two minutes St. Ignatius would squelch any thoughts of an upset by going on an 11-0 run, highlighted by a Chantal Nguyen scoop shot while getting fouled in the process.
Nguyen made the free throw to put the Wildcats up 48-31 and take away any drama in the contest.
“I just said that when we’re trapping, we have to get our hands up, and on offense, not be so predictable,” Mulkerrins said. “We had to use shot fakes, ball fakes, because they were very long. The message was to just keep after it.”
El Dorado head coach Pat Winter’s team didn’t help themselves, committing 33 turnovers.
“[It] takes a lot of energy to get back in a basketball game like that, and we just couldn’t get over that hump,” Winter said. “Once you get to this level, you have to show up and when you don’t, it’s tough to win.”
Maria Kemiji-McDonald – 22
Courtney Gong – 11
Raquel Avila – 8
Chantal Nguyen – 5
Crystal Sun – 5
Samantha Reeder – 15
Sarah Mackey – 14
Courtney Macklin – 5
Justine Pereira – 4
Maddie Zuber – 3