For a team used to playing a deliberate, methodical style of play, St. Ignatius sure looked comfortable when the pace turned up-tempo in the Wildcats' 68-59 non-conference victory on Friday night at home against Marin Catholic.
The Wildcats built a 29-21 halftime lead under conditions more befitting the slow, rugged style of its West Catholic Athletic Conference, and then maintained their advantage in a free-flowing second half against Marin Catholic, also called the Wildcats.
Division I guard prospect Trevor Dunbar led a balanced attack with 16 points for the Wildcats, who also got 14 points from Jaren Yang and 13 points from 6-foot-7 post player Troy Rike. Dunbar added six assists, many in spectacular fashion for St. Ignatius, which opened up a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter but had trouble shaking a feisty Marin Catholic squad.
Although it showed plenty of flashes of brilliance, St. Ignatius added a few head-slappers in the second half, allowing Marin Catholic to hang around, despite a significant size advantage.
"I really think we need to do a better job protecting the lead," said St. Ignatius coach Tim Reardon, who noted that his squad's only loss, to Jesuit of Carmichael, came after it squandered a late advantage. "I thought this would be a good opportunity to do that for us, especially since the up-tempo pace favors Trevor so much, but we were never really able to pull away. I think you have to credit Marin Catholic for their perseverance, but obviously that's something we need to work on."
After eight minutes, the game was tied 11-11, but St. Ignatius opened the second half on a 7-0 run, fueled by Yang's outside shooting. The 5-8 guard hit two 3-pointers in the quarter, helping stake St. Ignatius to a 29-21 lead.
In the second half, the tempo of the game picked up, with the two teams combining to score 38 points in an up-and-down third quarter. Dunbar, a 5-9 blur of a guard, scored seven points in the third, but was matched by Marin Catholic freshman guard Joey Calcaterra, who added eight of his own.
With an imposing frontline led by Rike, St. Ignatius dominated the boards in the fourth quarter, wearing down the small Marin Catholic squad. Rike popped in 11 of his 13 points in the second half for the Wildcats.
Still, the lead was never entirely safe, with Marin Catholic junior forward Charlie Duysen pouring in 16 points in the fourth, keeping his squad nominally close. Duysen finished the contest with 23 points and six assists. A couple of missed free throws and some untimely turnovers by St. Ignatius kept the game closer than it felt.
"You know, this win is something we can build on," said Reardon. "It's early, we're getting better and we're playing some tough teams. I like the direction we're moving in."
With the win, St. Ignatius improved to 4-1 on the season. SI plays Aragon High School of San Mateo on Saturday, before gearing up to host its annual Leo LaRocca Sand Dunes Classic Tournament. That three-day tournament starts on Thursday and once again features a loaded field, including Santa Cruz, the squad that knocked off St. Ignatius in a stunning 49-48 upset last season in the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs.
Marin Catholic is now 3-3 with the loss.