By Jeremy Balan
There was a silver lining to the Sacred Heart Cathedral girls basketball team’s 44-40 home loss to St. Francis on Saturday night.
The Irish may have played one of their worst games of the year, but were still in position to win late against one of the better teams in the West Catholic Athletic League.
Sacred Heart (11-3, 4-1) trailed 38-35 with 1:31 remaining in the fourth quarter and had the ball, but committed three turnovers before the final buzzer, which allowed the Lancers (12-4, 3-2) to hand the Irish their first league loss.
The Irish committed 19 turnovers, shot 30 percent from the floor and struggled mightily to penetrate against St. Francis’ straight-forward, man-to-man defense.
The poor shooting was even skewed by two solid performances from sophomore Kayla Coloyan and senior Jezebella Cazares. Coloyan scored nine points on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor, including a three-point play with 4 seconds remaining to cut the St. Francis lead to 42-40, while Cazares had eight points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field. The rest of the Irish combined to shoot 5-of-31 from the floor.
Standout junior guard GeAnna Summers-Luaulu led the Irish with 11 points, but nine came at the free-throw line.
“We should have never been in that position in the first place,” Sacred Heart head coach LyRyan Russell said of the final moments of the game. “We needed to stay together and we didn’t do that tonight. We didn’t play together and they outplayed us.”
After outscoring Sacred Heart 14-6 in the third quarter to take a 35-27 lead into the final frame, the Lancers kept Irish comeback hopes alive in the fourth. St. Francis went the entire fourth quarter without a made field goal, but made 9-of-13 free-throw attempts.
“It’s not the way we drew it up, but we were desperate and we needed to play really hard to get a win, however we could get it,” said St. Francis head coach Brian Harrigan. “We’re not always going to do it pretty, but in this league, pretty doesn’t matter.”
The Lancers didn’t shoot much better (31 percent), but got open looks throughout with a patient and deliberate motion offense. St. Francis consistently scored inside, but its open jump shots weren’t falling until the third quarter, when senior guard Shelby Aimonetti hit three three-pointers in a span of five minutes.
“They were getting good shots and they just needed to keep shooting,” Harrigan said. “We hit a couple shots in the third quarter, though. Aimonetti hit some big ones.”
The St. Francis coaching staff’s connections to Sacred Heart are deep, and for now, the Lancers have bragging rights, specifically for assistant coach Toni Russell. Toni, the younger sister of LyRyan, helped the Irish win a state championship, with Harrigan coaching, in 1998.
“She’ll probably rub it in, but you gotta be careful what you say, because we get to see them again,” LyRyan said with a smile. “It could come back on you.”
Shelby Aimonetti – 16
Kate Hoey – 11
Jennifer Lucian – 9
Daisha Abdelkader – 6
Marisa Mondave – 2
Sacred Heart Cathedral
GeAnna Summers-Luaulu – 11
Kayla Coloyan – 9
Jezebella Cazares – 8
Kairee Howard – 5
Ashley Gainer – 4