Girls Basketball: St. Ignatius locks down Mitty’s top players to avenge first WCAL loss

St. Ignatius senior guard Maria Kemiji-McDonald soars past Mitty senior forward Amanda Lovely (right) on Friday at St. Ignatius Prep. (Photo by Eric Luis)

By Jeremy Balan

Seemingly overmatched physically at every position, it was no surprise to many that St. Ignatius’ girls basketball team fell to Archbishop Mitty High School on the road to kick off the West Catholic Athletic League season.

The undersized Wildcats held serve on their home court Friday night, though, and it started on the defensive end.

St. Ignatius freshman center Josie Little goes up for a contested shot in the lane against Mitty on Friday at St. Ignatius Prep. (Photo by Eric Luis)

The Wildcats held Mitty forwards Amanda Lovely and Courtney Lisowsky, both Division I recruits, to a combined nine points and handed the Monarchs their first WCAL loss in a 55-49 win.

“It always starts with the defense,” said St. Ignatius head coach Michael Mulkerrins. “The team that I envisioned, when we put this team together, finally showed up. We played just unbelievable defense.”

St. Ignatius (16-3, 6-1) forced 21 Mitty turnovers, but it was the performance of freshman center Josie Little that stuck out.

Little guarded Lovely, who is bound for Pepperdine, for most of the game and had three blocks, scored 10 points, took in 12 rebounds and may have hit the most important free throws of her early high school career.

After trailing 23-22 at the half, the Wildcats built a 11-point lead late in the third quarter, but the Monarchs (15-5, 7-1) charged back late and tied the game at 46-46 with 1:43 remaining in the game after a pair of free throws from junior guard Emily Dinger.

On the next St. Ignatius possession, Little was fouled and calmly hit two free throws to give the Wildcats back a lead they would not relinquish.

“A lot of people think, by looking at Josie, that she’s just a thin freshman,” Mulkerrins said. “She’s one of the toughest kids I’ve met and she’s only going to get tougher.”

The Wildcats may have let the Monarchs come back, but they put the game away at the free-throw line. Senior guard Courtney Gong hit all six of her free throws in the fourth quarter and the Wildcats hit 11-of-12 attempts in the fourth quarter.

Two of those free throws came from guard Maria Kemiji-McDonald, who finished with a game-high 16 points, but in the second half, the standout senior turned into a distributor.

“She’s so dynamic and she’s such a great athlete,” Mulkerrins said. “When kids were getting tired out there, Maria was going by them, and she didn’t get much rest. I always tell her that if she can make better decisions and get her teammates involved, big things are going to happen. That’s exactly what happened.”

St. Ignatius senior guard Courtney Gong drives past a Mitty defender on Friday at St. Ignatius Prep. (Photo by Eric Luis)

Kemiji-McDonald had five of her game-high six assists in the second half, and sparked a free-flowing St. Ignatius offense that allowed the Wildcats to open up a double-digit lead.

“We really wanted it, because it’s the last time [the seniors] will be able to play at home against Mitty,” Kemiji-McDonald said. “It’s really exciting to come back and get some revenge for three years of losing to them.”

Because St. Ignatius has played one less game in the WCAL, the Wildcats are still percentage points behind Mitty in the WCAL standings, but both figure to be the top seeds in the league playoffs, and with both teams now in Division II, the two teams could see each other as many as three more times in postseason play.

“Now we have to take care of business [in the rest of WCAL play],” Mulkerrins said. “Mitty is definitely going to be there waiting.”

Scoring Leaders

St. Ignatius
Maria Kemiji-McDonald – 16
Courtney Gong – 14
Josie Little – 10
Sydney Raggio – 6
Two players tied with 4 points

Vanessa Garner – 13
Kalyn Simon – 10
Kelli Hayes – 7
Emily Dinger – 6
Amanda Lovely – 6

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  1. GCJ 01 says:

    Great job SI. Looks like you will remain #1 in the polls this week. Keep up the great work.

  2. City Lights says:

    Who cares about polls?! This is a GREAT WIN for the Lady Cats. Congrats to SI for felling a juggernaut. I wish I would have gone to this game. Sounds like it was a classic.

    By the way, I’m happy for Mercy SF. They are having a great year. That being said, SI would smash them if they played. Sorry. It is what it is…

    • GCJ 01 says:

      A lot of people actually care about them. Especially the #1 and #2 spot. The few Mercy fans on here claim that just because they were undefeated (at least up until today) they deserved to be number 1. While others like myself supported SI because (1) they have the better team, (2) have a stronger schedule, and (3) just as you’ve mentioned, if they went head-to-head, SI would win hands down.

      • jbalan says:

        I obviously agree that SI has the best resume (as you can tell with my Top 10), but I wouldn’t be so quick to rule out Mercy in a head-to-head game. I’ve seen both play multiple times this season and I think it would be a good, close game. Unfortunately, that game won’t happen this year. It’s a shame that Lowell, SI and Mercy are so close to each other, but didn’t play a non-league game. Lowell just missed out by losing to Pinewood in the Sand Dune semifinals.

        • GCJ 01 says:

          I will admit that I haven’t seen either play, but just going by what you’ve written and going by the strength of schedules and the strength of their respective leagues, I would still side with SI.

          SI is used to playing tough teams on a nightly basis. This is why I would give the edge to them. You may be right. The game probably would be close, but even if Mercy had the home court advantage, I would still say SI would come out on top.

  3. JJ says:

    When it’s all said and done, Josie Little will hopefully be a D1 recruit most likely to a Pac 12 team such as the Oregon Ducks. If highly recruited, maybe Tennessee, Connecticut, or Stanford?? The next Brittany Griner?

    • jbalan says:

      She needs to grow another seven inches to be the next Brittany Griner.

      • JJ says:

        Her parents should look into HGH then.

      • hoops fan says:

        Wouldn’t count it out. Anthony Davis from Kentucky grew about that much in a little less than two years. He was recruited as a guard, now plays power with guard skills.

        • jbalan says:

          Guys and girls growth rates are vastly different. You don’t see many girls in high school grow that much. For boys, it’s a regular occurrence.

          • WCAL Alum says:

            Be careful about pumping up people on this board. Let remember how hard people have been on Domingo. All the experts will be coming out.

            • City Lights says:

              Seriously. It’s the “inflate-a-heads” on the various message boards that get these kids believing they are greater than the team. Just let a kid be a kid and not start thinking she (or he) are going to the pros while they should be worrying about their studies and their teammates.

  4. JJ says:

    Kaitlyn Crawley had a mediocre game?

  5. hoops fan says:

    Yes, on average men are taller than women. But physical growth is fairly individualized, mostly determined by heredity, not so much biological sex. She’s young, just saying she may grow a few. Not saying she’s gonna be as tall as my dude Rob Wadlow, though.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Kaitlyn did not score a lot points but her defense was superb and rebounding as well. She doesn’t score that much but contribute in a lot of ways. This time SI’s interior defense was huge. SI’s guards going step for step against Mitty’s guards all in all it was a very good team effort. Congrats Cats I hope this win will be one of many to come against Mitty that is.

  7. SFFan says:

    SI is in division 2 now? boys and girls? when did that happen?

    • jbalan says:

      Just girls. Changed this year.

      • Cats Pride says:

        Will the boys eventually be switched over as well? I had heard talk they would at the beginning of the year, but I never heard anything else about the topic.

        • jbalan says:

          Someone told me it had to do with the number of girls schools (combined all-girls and co-ed schools in the CCS), that are in lower divisions, rather than the all-boys schools, that are mostly upper division. Because SI is a borderline D-II/D-III school on population, the CCS wants an even number of schools in each division, so SI got bumped up, because the all-girls schools like Mercy, Mercy-B and Notre Dame-Belmont are all below them. The SI boys stayed in D-III, because Serra and Bellarmine are both in higher divisions. It makes sense in my head. I hope I communicated it well.

          • ARHS Stats says:

            CCS actually did this to a few schools this year.

            Palo Alto and Leland – Boys play Division 2 Girls play Division 1

            El Camino, Gilroy, Christopher, Pajaro Valley, and SI – Boys play Division 3 Girls play Division 2

            Gunderson and Seaside – Boys play Division 4 Girls play Division 3

            Boy’s Dividing point for Div 1 to Div 2 was 1879, Girls 1828 enrollment

            Boy’s Dividing point for Div 2 to Div 3 was 1500, Girls 1445 enrollment

            Boy’s Dividing point for Div 3 to Div 4 was 1100, Girls 1032.5 enrollment. 1033 for girls was division 3 1032 for girls was division 4.

            Boys Div 1 – 24 schools Bellarmine (B)
            Boys Div 2 – 23 schools Serra (B)
            Boys Div 3 – 26 schools
            Boys Div 4 – 22 schools Riordan (B), Palma (B)
            Boys Div 5 – 26 schools
            121 Boys schools (4 all boy schools)

            Girls Div 1 – 25 schools
            Girls Div 2 – 26 schools Presentation (G)
            Girls Div 3 – 24 schools Notre Dame [SJ] (G)
            Girls Div 4 – 23 schools Notre Dame [S] (G), Notre Dame [B] (G), Mercy [SF] (G), Mercy [B] (G), Santa Catalina (G)
            Girls Div 5 – 24 schools Castilleja (G), Immaculate Conception (G)
            122 Girls Schools (9 all girl schools)

            Some schools must not play basketball for both genders

            • ARHS Stats says:

              These Division 5 schools don’t play girls basketball:
              Trinity Christian
              North Valley Baptist
              Thomas More

              But these schools are not listed as single gender schools

          • Uncle Frank says:

            You got it pretty close.

            The divisions for both boys and girls are based on having 24 in each division based on # of students of that gender compared to all the other schools in the CCS.

            For example, the 24 schools with the most males students are in CCS’s Division 1. Numbers 25-48 are in Division 2 and Numbers 49-72 are in Division 3 (and so on). The SI boys qualify as Division 3 because large all-boys schools such as Serra and Bellarmine push them into the #49-72 flight. (Although Riordan is all-boys, it still has less boys than SI does so Riordan fall below SI in # of students.)

            This year, the SI girls just crept into the Division 2 because they don’t have the same type of large all-girls schools ahead of them.

  8. DJ Whiz says:

    CONGRATS SI job well done , will be rooting for you . Good luck for the remainder .

  9. Uncle Frank says:

    Little is very good, but I am not sure Sydney Raggio, another freshman playing on the varsity, isn’t her equal.

    What is really interesting is that the varsity has four freshman and are now 7-1 in league and 15-5 overall.

    There are five freshmen on JV. The JV are 8-0 in league and 17-1 overall.

    The actual freshmen team is 16-1.

    How is that class of 2015 going to be for SI?

    By my count, the three girls teams are now 49-7. Has any SI basketball program, boys or girls, ever had this type of success from top to bottom? Quite a compliment to Mulkerrins and his coaching staff.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sydney seems to be the first one off the bench every game and is still learning the offense. She is 1″ shorter and way more athletic (runs the court very well). She played the entire 4th quarter. Give her some time and she’ll be right there with Josie in terms of scoring. She’ll start looking for her shot more and they give her the ball more. There are a lot of scorers on the team already.

    • Anonymous says:

      varsity has three, not four, freshmen.

    • BBallFan says:

      7 seniors, 3 juniors, 1 soph and 3 frosh…..a strong core for the next several years. But will all 7 seniors be replaced? 14 is a large roster.

  10. Billy Bob says:

    Great win by ‘Cats. However, they need to forget about Mitty win and bear down for Tuesday’s game against SHC–a team that will come into game thinking it can beat SI. (and can beat them if Si isn’t focused) No time for a letdown, ‘Cats.

    Thanks to Pinewood, Si fans will get a break from hearing all the talk about how Mercy deserves to be #1.

    JBalan is right…Lowell-Mercy-SI should all play one another on a yearly basis. That would settle all the saber-rattling once and for all.

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