You’d think the Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Ignatius girls’ basketball teams would be tired of each other already.
The stakes of their fifth head-to-head matchup this season, however, provide a unique angle to The City’s supreme rivalry.
The Catholic-school rivals will play for the Division III Northern California championship and a spot in the state title game on Saturday at American Canyon High School and there is a clear favorite.
The Irish (24-6) have won all four meetings between the two teams this season — 47-41 and 51-49 victories in the West Catholic Athletic League regular season, a 63-54 win in the league tournament semifinals and a 67-52 victory in the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs.
“We talk about hurdles all the time — obstacles in our path and how we get over them in life and in sports,” said St. Ignatius coach Michael Mulkerrins. “Sacred Heart is one of them and they firmly believe that this is a different SI team right now.”
Mulkerrins has a reason to be optimistic.
The Wildcats’ (21-10) first loss in the series was on Bruce-Mahoney night at USF, but the next three were on Sacred Heart’s home court and all were close in the fourth quarter. Even the game with the largest margin, their final meeting in the CCS Open playoffs, was a one-possession game with 3 minutes remaining in the fourth.
St. Ignatius has also received back-to-back 21-point performances from junior guard Quinci Mann in wins over Vanden (57-53) and Enterprise (63-47) in their first two games of the NorCal tournament.
“Quinci is playing at another level right now,” Mulkerrins said. “She’s playing lockdown defense for us, getting rebounds and making 50 percent of her shots.”
The recipe for success has been proven by the Irish, though, and they’re coming off two impressive victories.
The Irish have had moments of dominance in their first two NorCal wins, outscoring Kennedy 48-30 in the second half after trailing at the break and shutting Campolindo out entirely in the second quarter en route to a 59-40 win Tuesday. Standout Irish guard GeAnna Summers also scored 19 points and had eight rebounds in a win over Campolindo.
“Our girls have been doing a good job of making plays,” said Sacred Heart coach LyRyan Russell. “They know what we’re going to do and we know what they’re going to do. It’s going to come down to who makes plays.”
Russell, in his first year with the program is preaching confidence, but not cockiness in the most important game of his young coaching career.
“We know they’re a good team and that’s where the healthy respect comes in,” Russell said. “As a coach and former player, I don’t allow my team to be over confident or cocky. That’s the easiest way to get beat.”