With several players returning from football and a few key early injuries, the St. Ignatius boys’ basketball team hasn’t even installed a zone offense.
So when Sacred Heart Prep opened in a 2-3 zone, the Wildcats were at a loss.
But after only leading 21-20 at the half, St. Ignatius found success in its transition game to secure a 58-50 nonleague win in its home opener on Tuesday.
“It’s not fair for me to expect those guys to do it. The football players have only had two practices,” St. Ignatius coach Tim Reardon said. “We were trying to draw stuff up during timeouts, but [Sacred Heart] was very disciplined. They out-thought us and out-hustled us.”
The Wildcats (3-2) scored 27 fast-break points — 19 coming in the second half — spurred by point guard Trevor Dunbar, and shot a staggering 70 percent from the floor after the halftime break.
The playmaking sophomore scored 11 points, but left his biggest impression with his own personal highlight reel of no-look assists. His total of eight assists is deceiving, as the Wildcats mishandled several Dunbar passes, not even expecting the ball themselves.
“The play at the end was to get out of the way and see what he could create,” Reardon said. “It’s nice to have that tool in your arsenal, and that’s how we got most of our buckets. He’s a leader just because he always has the ball in his hand and he’s very unselfish, and that’s why he’s successful.”
The Wildcats also got a lift in the late moments from senior guard Nick Johnson, who had missed much of the early season due to injury.
After being held scoreless through the first three quarters, and with Sacred Heart only trailing 43-32 with under three minutes remaining, Johnson hit a shot in the lane and connected on a 3-pointer on consecutive possessions for his only points of the game to give St. Ignatius breathing room.
“It’s his first game back after missing a little bit more than a week, so he had some sea legs for the first three quarters,” Reardon said. “He needed that to get himself going again and we need him. He’s our captain and he was a very effective player last year until he got injured.”
As effective as the Wildcats were converting Sacred Heart (3-2) turnovers in the open court, against the zone they struggled mightily to score.
“Obviously when you see a player like [Dunbar], who can do a lot of things with the ball, we were just trying to keep him in front of us,” Sacred Heart coach Tony Martinelli said. “When we play the zone, at least we have a couple of guys in there who can help and then close out on shooters.”
The Wildcats are still eagerly awaiting the return of standout junior wingman Stephen Domingo and starting senior center Antonio Aguilar, who are both out with injuries, but both could return to action as soon as the weekend.
“We have the components, but we’re a ways off of having the machine work together,” Reardon said. “Right now we have a bunch of good pieces that haven’t jibed yet.”
As well as Dunbar played on Tuesday, Reardon couldn’t help but be optimistic about the future.
“Just wait till you see him with Domingo,” he said.
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