The St. Ignatius girls’ basketball team probably thought there wasn’t much more pressure than playing against its rival in a full-to-the-rafters college gymnasium.
Then it ran into Sacred Heart Cathedral’s defensive scheme.
With a sell-out crowd cheering it on, Sacred Heart Cathedral stifled St. Ignatius’ shooting and beat the Wildcats 46-41 Tuesday night in a West Catholic Athletic League matchup at a packed War Memorial Gym at USF.
“The atmosphere was pretty intense,” said Irish guard Ge’anna Summers-Luaulu, the game’s leading scorer with 15 points. “We were nervous, but it was just another game just in a different gym. We knew ‘Just stay calm’ and it would be a lot of fun.”
It probably didn’t actually feel like fun for Sacred Heart Cathedral until the fourth quarter, when its defensive pressure limited the Wildcats to only six points and one field goal. In fact, the game didn’t start out amusing at all for the Irish.
After Sacred Heart Cathedral (10-2 overall, 3-0 WCAL) scored the first points of the game just 53 seconds in, St. Ignatius went on a 10-0 run over the next four minutes, mainly thanks to its forcing four turnovers during the span. But the Irish came back with their own 9-0 run to get within two points after a quarter.
The Irish went on a 12-3 run to start the second quarter by becoming a defensive powerhouse. Unable to penetrate, St. Ignatius made just two of 14 shots from the floor in the frame.
“Once we settled down, we were able to get set, come out and execute our game plan,” SHC coach LyRyan Russell said.
St. Ignatius (10-3, 0-2) did mount a comeback in the third quarter, even taking a brief lead on Erin Hanley’s layup with 1:24 left, but Sacred Heart Cathedral regrouped. The teams went into the fourth quarter tied 35-35, and the Irish defense took it from there — this time limiting the Wildcats to 1-for-12 shooting in the quarter.
Highlighting the SI difficulties, Brianna Beckman, who led St. Ignatius with nine points, was held scoreless after halftime once defensive attention was shifted to her. No SI player had more than three field goals.