Coming off a rare loss to St. Ignatius in the season’s previous matchup, the Fightin’ Irish bounced back against their city rival Tuesday with a convincing 57-42 home win in West Catholic Athletic League play. Last season, the Irish dispatched the Wildcats five times en route to winning the NorCal title.
The formula for that success was on display early and often Tuesday, as the undersized Irish employed their trademark pressure defense to harass the cold-shooting Wildcats into an abysmal offensive performance. SI, which entered the game 16-2 and had defeated SHC 44-41 earlier this month, shot just 25 percent (15-of-60) from the field.
The Irish, who surpassed their previous point total against SI midway through the third quarter, featured a balanced offensive effort, with four players scoring in double figures. Senior guard GeAnna Summers-Luaulu and junior center A’shanti Coleman led Sacred Heart with 13 points each, while Kai’Ree Howard and freshman post player Iimar’i Thomas added 12 apiece. Coleman led the Irish with 10 rebounds, and Howard paced the team with five assists.
The Irish set the tone early, holding SI to just one field goal in the fourth quarter while opening up a 16-6 lead. They didn’t let up the intensity in the second quarter, either, with Summers-Luaulu pouring in nine points as the Irish opened up a 29-16 halftime lead.
“We made a few adjustments from the first game, but the most important thing was getting stops and getting out and running,” Sacred Heart coach LyRyan Russell said. “We have some athletes on this team and we used that to our advantage.”
Pounding the ball down low in the second half, SI made things somewhat interesting, closing the gap to single digits in the fourth quarter at 49-40. But that was as close as it would get for the Wildcats, who were outscored 8-2 down the stretch by Sacred Heart.
With the win, Sacred Heart moved into sole possession of first place in the WCAL, with a 6-1 league record. SI dropped to 5-2.
“We’re still the defending league champs, and I think tonight we came out and showed that,” Russell said. “We played a tough preseason schedule to get us ready for the WCAL and I think we’re hitting our stride at the right time.”