By Jeremy Balan
Amid a rash of stomach illnesses afflicting St. Ignatius and the athletic teams at the school, the SI girls basketball team took down visiting rival Sacred Heart Cathedral 62-51 in West Catholic Athletic League play on Tuesday night.
The Wildcats (17-3, 7-1) were short three sick players, including starting freshman center Josie Little, and also had standout senior guard Maria Kemiji-McDonald playing while still recovering from the illness.
Kemiji-McDonald played the vast majority of the game, scored eight points and led a solid St. Ignatius defensive effort, but the Wildcats got most of their offense from senior guards Kaitlyn Crawley and Stacey Ward. Crawley had 16 points, while Ward shot the lights out, scoring a game-high 18 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the floor and 4-of-4 from 3-point range.
After the score was tied at 44-44 heading into the fourth quarter, the Wildcats outscored the Irish (10-11, 5-4) 17-8 in the final frame, but the focus quickly shifted from the St. Ignatius win to Ward in the final seconds.
While jogging back to play defense, Ward vomited with 36 seconds remaining and left the game. As the St. Ignatius athletic trainers and custodial staff cleaned the floor, the Irish crowd grew agitated and vocalized its displeasure, mostly due to the fact that Ward had left the floor earlier in the game to vomit, then returned to the game.
Much of the anger was aimed at St. Ignatius head coach Michael Mulkerrins, who said after the game that he did not know Ward had vomited the first time.
“She ran off the court at that one point and I didn’t even know what was going on,” Mulkerrins said. “She came back and said, ‘I’m ready to go coach.’ I have to take her for her word. I didn’t see anything. She’s fine now and is probably more embarrassed than anything.”
A pair of Irish players were near Ward at the time and sophomore guard GeAnna Summers-Luaulu had to change her shorts before reentering the game, but Sacred Heart head coach Mike Carey would not comment on whether Ward or any other sick players should have been on the court. St. Ignatius freshman Sydney Raggio also became ill late in the game.
“That’s [Mulkerrins’] decision,” Carey said. “I have no idea how she was. Maybe she was fine the whole day. I can’t tell you. People will probably say – and [Mulkerrins] and I were talking about it before [the game] – it would have been easy for a couple of people to make phone calls and we don’t play tonight.”
Despite the unfortunate circumstances, the win was not only important for the Wildcats in terms of their rivalry with Sacred Heart, but it also allowed them to keep place with Mitty at the top of the WCAL standings.
“Our combinations were off, but give the kids a lot of credit. They could have made a lot of excuses tonight and they didn’t,” Mulkerrins said. “They played hard, they played together and I think we’re playing some of our best basketball right now.”
Stacey Ward – 18
Kaitlyn Crawley – 16
Courtney Gong – 9
Maria Kemiji-McDonald – 8
Sydney Raggio – 8
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Briannah Smith – 11
GeAnna Summers-Luaulu – 11
Juliet Courtney – 10
Kayla Coloyan – 8
Jerrieza Enriquez – 8