By Bonta Hill
The St. Ignatius girls basketball team didn’t get their customary big games from seniors Maria Kemiji-McDonald and Kaitlyn Crawley against visiting Casa Grande in the second round of the California Interscholastic Federation Division II state basketball playoffs.
With Kemiji-McDonald saddled with foul trouble in the first half and Crawley struggling to knock down jump shots, the Wildcats got a boost from a pair of girls that weren’t even in high school last season.
Freshman forward Sydney Raggio and center Josie Little played like seasoned seniors on Saturday, combining for 37 points and 22 rebounds to lead the fourth-seeded Wildcats to a 63-49 win.
“They’re maturing before our eyes every game,” said St. Ignatius head coach Michael Mulkerrins. “They’ve got 31 games under their belt now. They’re sophomores at this point and they’re mature for their age.”
Little did much of her damage in the second and third quarters, scoring off offensive rebounds and set out-of-bounds plays.
Raggio scored 18 of her team-high 21 points in the second half, including 12 in the fourth quarter.
“Sometimes [we] are not as involved in the offense as the seniors,” Little said. “Some games we need to score more and tonight that was the case.”
The Wildcats (26-5) struggled mightily on the offensive end in the first half, committed 10 turnovers and shot 33 percent from the floor in the opening 16 minutes.
SI still went into the halftime break with a 23-17 lead, though, thanks to Little’s basket right before the buzzer off an assist from senior guard Stacey Ward.
Little played an even bigger role in the third quarter, when St. Ignatius extended its lead. She scored five points to spur a 11-3 run, giving St. Ignatius a commanding 40-27 late in the third frame.
“We gave up offensive rebounds [and] face-up baskets in the paint, which we had talked about not doing at halftime,” said Casa Grande head coach Dan Sack. “I can’t be disappointed with my kids’ effort. St. Ignatius just had too much size for us.”
But the fifth-seeded Gauchos (31-3) got back in the game behind workhorse forward Gretchen Harrigan, who scored a game-high 26 points.
The senior scored 16 points in the second half, including eight points during a 13-4 Casa Grande run that cut the St. Ignatius lead to 44-40 with 4:50 left in the game.
The St. Ignatius seniors responded with much-needed leadership in a game-clinching 8-0 run, as Crawley calmly sank a ten-foot jumper, Kemiji-McDonald hit four free-throws, and Raggio made a layup to push the St. Ignatius lead back to double digits. Raggio went on to score nine of the Wildcats’ final 11 points.
“Our senior leadership with Maria, Kaitlyn, Courtney – especially in the second half – was [really] good,” Mulkerrins said. “But when it came down to it, our freshman twin towers stepped up and had fantastic games for us.”
Sydney Raggio – 21
Josie Little – 16
Maria Kemiji-McDonald – 10
Kaitlyn Crawley – 9
Courtney Gong – 5
Gretchen Harrigan – 26
Lyndsey Murnin – 17
Stephanie Sack – 6