By Bonta Hill
St. Ignatius boys basketball head coach Tim Reardon has spent most of the non-league season trying to get his team healthy.
With 13 players now in uniform, including standout junior wingman Stephen Domingo and senior forward Antonio Aguliar, Reardon liked what he saw from his team on Tuesday night.
In the first round of the Leo LaRocca Sand Dune Classic, the Wildcats held visiting Branson of Ross to 35 percent shooting from the floor and cruised to a 54-31 win.
Offensively, the Wildcats (5-3) shot 50 percent from the field, led by Domingo’s 18 points, to advance to the championship bracket semifinals, where they will take on Santa Cruz on Wednesday.
“I thought the defense played really well today and that’s been our struggle all year long, stopping teams from scoring,” Reardon said. “We hit some 3s, because Branson really sags [on defense], so if you don’t shoot well from the outside, they’re going to beat you.”
Both teams appeared to be feeling the other out in the first quarter and St. Ignatius held a 12-9 lead, but the Wildcats took control in the second frame.
St. Ignatius held Branson to just two points and forced five turnovers in the quarter, while senior Nick Johnson scored five points late in the half to give the Wildcats a 25-11 lead at the break.
Branson (7-3) wasn’t able to get within nine points the rest of the way, despite outscoring St. Ignatius 14-11 in the third quarter.
“We couldn’t throw a nickel into the ocean in that second quarter,” said Branson head coach Bret Tovani. “[St Ignatius’] athleticism and their size was really a factor we had to overcome. We didn’t do a very good job [in the second quarter].”
Though the Wildcats looked stagnant on offense during stretches in the first half, their efficiency picked up in the final 16 minutes, where they shot an efficient 64 percent from the field.
Domingo, who scored nine points in each half, showed no ill effects of his offseason wrist injury and spoke highly of Reardon’s new offense.
“Due to all the players being out this season, we’re starting to put all of our offensive sets in now,” Domingo said. “Coach Reardon tells us if we’re in range and it’s the shot we work on in practice, it’s open for us to take it. I’ve really embraced what [he] is doing with the [offense].”
Reardon, who was hoping to get all of his players back by the start of West Catholic Athletic League play, is happy to finally get an idea of what his team can do when it is at full strength.
“We used Antonio minimally tonight, because he’s still coming back from his shoulder injury, but he makes a big difference in the post for us and gets to the free throw line,” Reardon said. “We’re still missing two players, but to have 13 out of the 15, it’s big to have them all practicing together now.”
Stephen Domingo — 18
Nick Johnson — 8
Antonio Aguliar — 6
Michael Loginoff — 6
Noah Bull — 5
Gabe Moynihan — 12
Jordan Lazor — 9
Eli Morris — 4
Three players tied with 2 points