By Jeremy Balan
SANTA CLARA – There’s something about Santa Clara University’s Leavey Center that brings out the best in Sacred Heart Cathedral guard GeAnna Summers-Luaulu.
A year after scoring 20 points against rival St. Ignatius in last season’s championship game as a freshman, Summers-Luaulu again had her best game of the season at the Leavey Center to lead the Irish girls basketball team to a 61-56 win over Terra Nova in the Central Coast Section Division III championship game on Saturday.
The 5-foot-7 sophomore had a career-high 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the second-seeded Irish (15-14) to their second-consecutive CCS title.
“If I’m [Santa Clara] head coach Jennifer Mountain, I’d start recruiting her right now, because she loves playing here,” said Sacred Heart head coach Mike Carey. “She was hurt for five weeks and this is really just her second month playing, and it’s really showing. After practice yesterday I told her, “You can take over the game. That’s OK with me'”
With the green light from Carey, Summers-Luaulu imposed her will early, scoring nine points in the first quarter to help the Irish build a 16-11 lead they never surrendered.
After a scoring drought in the middle quarters, Summers-Luaulu again began to fire in the fourth. She scored eight points in the final frame, including two cold-blooded, step-back 3-pointers.
“I don’t know what was going on, but we just wanted this game really badly,” Summers-Luaulu said. “Last year we were underdogs and we were again this year, so we were just trying to prove everyone wrong.”
Summers-Luaulu hit two of five Irish 3s in the final quarter, but even though they didn’t miss a shot from beyond the arc, they missed seven free throws in the final frame to keep the Tigers in the game.
“We were hitting 3s because we were getting our feet set and following the game plan,” Carey said. “It was frustrating [missing the free throws], but we just have to take our time, take deep breaths and put the free throws down.”
The Tigers (23-6) feature three Division I college recruits, including Texas Tech-bound senior guard Ivonne Cook-Taylor, who went shot-for-shot with Summers-Luaulu, scoring 22 points. Nevada-bound senior guard Terilyn Moe scored 15 points, but did so on 5-of-20 shooting, and San Jose State-bound guard Jayzyl Tauala added eight points.
The difference was Sacred Heart’s depth and steady rotation that tired out the three future college players.
“They only go six or seven [deep] and we go nine or 10,” Carey said. “Are we used to playing 32 minutes hard? Yes. Are they used to playing 32 minutes hard? No. The difference between the [Peninsula Athletic League] and the [West Catholic Athletic League] is that we played tough games the last two months and they ran through their league.”
The Tigers only played six players, with Cook-Taylor, Moe and Tauala all logging over 30 minutes of time on the floor.
“My thing is, I’m going to ride my horses,” said Terra Nova head coach Kareem Summerville. “These two teams know each other very well, because they play outside of high school and the girls knew whoever fights is going to win the ballgame.”
The outsized Irish also out-rebounded the Tigers 43-40, led by 5-foot-7 forward Ashley Gainer, who had a team-high 12 rebounds to go along with five points.
“She’s 5-7, but plays like she’s 6-3,” Carey said. “She’s been our heart and soul on the boards all year and she showed it today.”
The Irish enter the CIF State Championship tournament with momentum and will look to advance further than their second-round exit to Campolindo last season.
“I think we’re playing our best basketball,” Carey said. “We’re executing well and being patient. It’s the little things and at this time of the year, the little things keep you moving forward.”
Sacred Heart Cathedral
GeAnna Summers-Luaulu – 22
Briannah Smith – 11
Jerrieza Enriquez – 9
Kayla Coloyan – 6
Two players tied with 5 points
Ivonne Cook-Taylor – 22
Terilyn Moe – 15
Jayzyl Tauala – 8
Mailiyah Alapati – 7
Lynette Mackey – 4