By Jeremy Balan
ANAHEIM — As cold as Canyon High School of Anaheim shot in the first quarter on Friday, St. Ignatius’ girls basketball team should have been up by double digits.
The Comanches shot just 20 percent from the field in the first quarter, but St. Ignatius only led 12-10 after the frame.
Then, the shots started to fall for Canyon and the Comanches handed St. Ignatius its first loss of the season, 59-46, to wrap up the Wildcats’ two-game Southern California trip.
Led by a game-high 17 points from standout senior guard Christina Salvatore, who started the game missing her first ten shots from the floor, the Comanches (6-3) caught fire in the second half, began the third quarter on an 11-0 run, and the Wildcats (6-1) never recovered.
Canyon went 0-for-12 from 3-point range in the first half, but connected on 6-of-9 long distance attempts in the second, with three coming from Salvatore, often from NBA range.
“We shoot a lot and we shoot a lot in practice,” said Canyon head coach Matt Dale. “Christina shoots a lot of them and she’s been a four-year starter. She’s been hitting big shots her whole life. When she’s struggling, I’d like her to get to the basket a little bit more, but what can I say? It helps to be good.”
The Wildcats played even with Canyon through most of the second half, but could not get the defensive stops needed to fuel a late comeback.
“They have a lot of nice players who shot it really well and we have to do a much better job of identifying shooters,” said St. Ignatius head coach Mike Mulkerrins. “It was pretty obvious who they were going to in their offense and we left her wide open at times. We did a really poor job at times defensively.”
On the offensive end, the Wildcats also struggled to connect with open looks against the active Canyon zone. Senior guard Stacy Ward was the lone St. Ignatius shooting threat, connecting on 5-of-8 shots from the floor through three quarters to finish with a team-high 12 points.
“She’s a great shooter and she shoots it with confidence,” Mulkerrins said. “I just don’t think we found her enough today.”
Other than Ward, the Wildcats struggled mightily to score from the outside and often settled for jump shots early in the shot clock.
“We were settling for the first jump shot, then when we started to penetrate their zone, we got better looks and got some layups,” Mulkerrins said. “Unless we’re extremely hot, we can’t just sit outside and jack up shots.”
Senior guard Maria Kemiji-McDonald was the only other St. Ignatius player to score in double figures with 11 points, but despite the loss and a split on its trip south, Mulkerrins was happy the experience came early in the season.
“It was a great experience for us and that’s a great team,” Mulkerrins said. “They would do well in our league and it’s good to get a game like that under our belt to see how we can handle it.”
Christina Salvatore — 17
Lindsay Uyematsu — 15
Shanice Jackson — 13
Sheraton Jones — 8
Tyler Prange — 6
Stacey Ward — 12
Maria Kemiji-McDonald — 11
Paige Marquez — 7
Sydney Raggio — 7
Kailyn Crawley — 5