By Jeremy Balan
Last season, the Lowell girls basketball team beat Sacred Heart Cathedral with standout Irish guard GeAnna Summers-Luaulu on the bench and the Cardinals got their own taste of how difficult it can be to beat a quality opponent without their best player on Tuesday.
Without starting point guard and reigning Academic Athletic Association Player of the Year Katarina Lum due to an ankle injury, the Cardinals got consumed by an athletic and opportunistic Irish defense in Sacred Heart’s 64-30 non-league win at Lowell.
The Irish (1-0) forced 28 Lowell turnovers, including 19 on Sacred Heart steals, and limited the Cardinals to just 11 points in the second half. Sacred Heart guard Kai’ree Howard finished with a game-high five steals and three other Irish players had three or more.
“That’s going to be the basis of our team this year – defense,” said first-year Sacred Heart head coach LyRyan Russell, who picked up his first win as a varsity coach on Tuesday. “If you stop another team from scoring, that makes it a lot easier for you. Even if your shots aren’t falling, you get the stops on defense. That’s the main thing.”
Summers-Luaulu was the only player to score in double figures with 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the floor, but the Irish had nine players score, including seven players with six points or more.
“We have a deep team and we can go 14 deep, legitimately,” Russell said. “There’s going to be a lot of shared minutes and as long as we can keep that attitude where we’re all together, we’ll be fine.”
The Cardinals (0-1) only trailed 25-19 at the halftime break, but 21 of their turnovers came in the second half, which was compounded by a 23 percent shooting performance in the final two quarters. Senior shooting guard Angie Ng and senior forward Taylor Sui finished tied for the Cardinals’ scoring lead with seven points apiece.
“Katarina isn’t going to make up 30 points, but it would have been closer,” said Lowell head coach Aki Kuwada. “When she’s in the game she calms everybody down and we just don’t have that leadership qualities with some of these other kids yet. We expect more, but by the end of the year, they should be a better, more-cohesive team.”
Where Lowell appeared to have its most significant advantage was in the frontcourt, with senior forwards Lorna Tuufuli, Sui and Hana Murphy, but the trio combined for just 11 points. Tuufuli, who was the AAA Player of the Year as a sophomore, battled foul trouble throughout, but the Lowell guards largely struggled to get the ball to their big forwards inside.
“They don’t understand the matchups just yet,” Kuwada said. “We can’t always go to [Tuufuli]. Some of the other post people are going to have to step up and do their jobs too, but our perimeter people have to figure out that when we have the matchups, we gotta go to them.”
Sacred Heart Cathedral
GeAnna Summers-Luaulu – 13
Juliet Courtney – 9
Kai’ree Howard – 8
Gabby Vigil – 7
Three players tied with 6 points
Angie Ng – 7
Taylor Sui – 7
Cynthia Wong – 4
Vanessa Lee – 3
Melanie Look – 3