By Matthew Snyder
At times during Friday’s Bay Counties League West game between the International and Convent girls basketball teams, Jaguars players Shayna Mehta and Danielle Palmer were simply unguardable.
Palmer poured in 12 first-quarter points and Mehta followed with 15 points in the second quarter, but International weathered severe offensive stagnation and a fierce Convent comeback in the second half before they finished strongly in a 59-43 home victory.
It was International’s (18-2, 6-0) second game without standout junior guard Natalie Kelly, who was averaging 23 points per game before she tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in her left knee against University on Jan. 19.
Without Kelly, who will miss the rest of the season, International roared out of the gate against Convent (9-11, 1-5) by feeding Palmer in the post.
The 6-foot-1 forward thrived on the perimeter during the first half of the season, but International head coach Charlene Murphy expects Palmer to become more of a force in the post in the wake of Kelly’s injury.
The Cubs had no answer for Palmer during the first quarter. She shot 5-of-6 from the field, grabbed four rebounds, and added a three-pointer and a blocked shot.
Palmer only scored three points in the final three quarters, but Mehta took over the rest of the way. Despite expending serious energy guarding Convent leading scorer Jaime Hum-Nishikado on defense, the sophomore guard assumed complete control of the game with 15 points in the second quarter on 6-of-10 shooting.
Mehta’s fireworks fueled a 17-2 International run that spanned the first and second quarters and pushed the Jaguars’ lead to 30-13, their largest of the game. She finished with a game-high 34 points, six rebounds and three assists.
“She’s a gamer,” Murphy said of Mehta. “She’s one of the most underrated guards in the City and she can put a team on her back, just as she demonstrated tonight. She’s averaging 29 points a game, she’s shooting 50 percent from the field, three-point percentage is 43 percent . . . I mean, go ahead, try to stop her.”
With the game threatening to get out of reach before halftime, Convent head coach Jennifer Hum-Traverso made a couple of key defensive adjustments. The Cubs switched from a man-to-man defense to a 1-2-2 zone geared toward stifling Palmer with double teams and preventing Mehta from penetrating into the key off the dribble.
“We realized we had to pressure up on defense,” Hum-Traverso said.
Those changes paid dividends in the third quarter, when Convent held International to just three points on 1-of-6 shooting and outrebounded the Jaguars 10-3. Led by seven points from Hum-Nishikado, the Cubs closed the deficit to 45-38 at the end of the third quarter.
“We got a lot of defensive rebounds, which was the huge swing in the game for us,” Hum-Traverso said. “It was one shot, our rebound and we’re going down the other way. Our goal was just to attack their defense.”
Convent came cut the lead down to five points in the fourth quarter after senior guard Isabella Borges hit a runner in the lane, but Palmer responded with a shot off an inbound pass before Mehta scored the final nine points to put the game away.
Shayna Mehta – 34
Danielle Palmer – 15
Cienna Gray – 3
Melanie Fun – 3
Two players tied with 2 points
Jaime Hum-Nishikado – 20
Bianka Quintanilla-Whye – 11
Isabella Borges – 8
Gina Domergue – 4