Girls Basketball: St. Ignatius succumbs to Mitty’s late pressure in CCS title game

St. Ignatius senior guards Maria Kemiji-McDonald (left) and Courtney Gong (right) converge on Mitty junior guard Vanessa Garner on Friday at Santa Clara University. (Photo by Clarivel Fong)

By Jeremy Balan

SANTA CLARA – The St. Ignatius girls basketball team was rattled in their loss to Mitty in the West Catholic Athletic League championship game two weeks ago.

For three quarters in the rematch with the Monarchs in the Central Coast Section Division II championship game, the Mitty defensive pressure did not faze the Wildcats, but in the fourth the same shakiness reared its ugly head in a 49-48 Mitty win on Friday at Santa Clara University.

St. Ignatius senior guard Maria Kemiji-McDonald eyes the Mitty defense after making a steal on Friday at Santa Clara University. (Photo by Clarivel Fong)

After a layup from St. Ignatius senior Kaitlyn Crawley gave the Wildcats (25-5) their biggest lead of the game at 39-31 with just under 6 minutes remaining, Mitty (24-5) forced six turnovers to spur a 16-2 run that gave the Monarchs a 47-41 lead with just over a minute left.

“We started to apply some defensive pressure that created the kind of easy transition baskets that we were lacking in the first half,” said Mitty head coach Sue Phillips.

But St. Ignatius wasn’t done and cut the Mitty lead to 49-47 on a follow from freshman center Josie Little with 11 seconds left.

That’s when the circumstances of the Wildcats’ loss went from disappointing to heartbreaking.

On the ensuing inbound play, St. Ignatius senior guard Maria Kemiji-McDonald knocked the ball away from Mitty sophomore guard Kelli Hayes near midcourt. The ball bounced to SI senior guard Courtney Gong, who passed the ball back to Kemiji-McDonald.

Kemiji-McDonald drove to the left side of the basket, and found Little under the rim on the right side. Little went up for a shot in the lane and nearly made the attempt, but was fouled in the process, sending her to the free-throw line with 3 seconds left, with a chance to tie the game with two made shots.

The 6-foot-1 freshman missed the first attempt then made the second and the Wildcats came up one point short.

“We wouldn’t have been in that position without her and she’s really upset right now, but that just shows you how much she cares,” said St. Ignatius head coach Michael Mulkerrins. “She’s grown so much this year and will continue to improve.”

Little led a standout St. Ignatius defensive effort with a game-high 11 rebounds and seven blocks, while scoring seven points.

“At the end of the day, they’re not even in that basketball game without her,” Phillips said of Little. “Her rebounding, her defensive presence, her buckets – I hope that kid doesn’t look at the game and feel like that was the reason for the outcome. It was one free throw in the course of 32 minutes.”

St. Ignatius senior guard Courtney Gong (right) drives past a Mitty defender on Friday at Santa Clara University. (Photo by Clarivel Fong)

Kemiji-McDonald and freshman forward Sydney Raggio led the Wildcats with 10 points apiece, but the fourth quarter was owned by Hayes.

The sophomore had 12 points, two steals and a block in the final quarter and was the defensive spark that led to 20 Mitty points off St. Ignatius turnovers. Hayes finished with a game-high 25 points and a team-high eight rebounds.

“Kelli is so competitive and so athletic, we would really like her to create something from the defensive side and she just played a superior second half,” Phillips said.

As a CCS finalist, St. Ignatius still earns a berth in the CIF State Championship tournament beginning next week, with another date with Mitty potentially on the horizon.

“We’ll see how the seeding goes, but I would hate to be a top-four seed and draw them,” Phillips said.

Scoring Summary

Kelli Hayes – 25
Vanessa Garner – 8
Kayln Simon – 8
Amanda Lovely – 4
Two players tied with 2 points

St. Ignatius
Maria Kemiji-McDonald – 10
Sydney Raggio – 10
Courtney Gong – 8
Josie Little – 7
Kaitlyn Crawley – 6

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  1. GCJ 01 says:

    SI almost got Mitty. Great job SI!

  2. Ruckjames says:

    There will be a 1.-2 combination for the next 3 years for SI
    In Raggio and Little .it would be very difficult for opposing teams to
    Defend, I will not be surprised if Mitty reloads to counter SI’s
    twin towers. Props to coach Phillips for giving credit to Little’s
    effort in the game. At least SI did not give up when they lost their lead
    clawing till the end. SI will probably be in Div 3 next 3 years, there
    wont be any significant competition except for maybe SHC unless
    other teams reload. SHC will probably be basically be the same team
    next year with a significant number of seniors in their roster .

  3. merkinworld says:

    good luck in norcal playoffs.

  4. Josh Weinstein says:

    3 frosh on the varsity with a major impact in Little, Raggio, and Beckman. 8 frosh on the 21-1 WCAL Champion JV team coming up to the varsity next season. It’s going to be a young but experienced team to be reckoned with for three years to come. Go Cats!

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