However, with St. Ignatius down 39-37 with 1:29 left in the West Catholic Athletic League opener for both teams, coach Michael Mulkerrins stuck with his senior and put the ball in the hands of Mann.
After Sacred Heart Cathedral senior Kai’Ree Howard drove through the middle of the lane and sank a 10-footer to give the Irish the two-point lead, Mann didn’t disappoint, delivering back-to-back buckets — with the her final basket in the paint giving SI a 43-41 lead with 20 seconds left, leading the Wildcats to the eventual 44-41 final inside of a packed War Memorial Gym at USF.
“I just knew that it was my turn, and this [was] my job and this was an opportunity I had to come through on to help us get this win,” said Mann, who finished with eight points. “When the opportunity comes, I have to be ready to take advantage of it.”
Sacred Heart Cathedral (6-5, 0-1 West Catholic Athletic League) controlled most of the first half, using its full-court pressure defense to stymie St. Ignatius (11-1, 1-0). In the last 1:31 of the first half, St. Ignatius scored six unanswered points to take a 21-20 halftime lead despite shooting only 24 percent from the floor.
The second half became a war of attrition, as both teams traded leads. Sacred Heart seemed to have stolen the momentum, as back-to-back hoops from senior GeAnna Summers-Luaulu and Howard rallied from a four-point deficit to tie the game at 37-37 with 3:03 left. Summers-Luaulu, who averages 19.3 points per game, finished with a game-high 15 points.
Despite not being able to put the Wildcats away, second-year coach LyRyan Russell wasn’t distraught after the tough loss.
“We just couldn’t get a stop down the stretch,” Russell said. “It wasn’t like both teams were scoring, and we were right there, but we just didn’t make plays down the stretch. We are 0-1. We have a lot of season left and we’ll be fine. We’re not crushed by this.”