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St. Ignatius squanders 15-point lead, loses to St. Francis in double overtime

St. Francis forward AJ Tennathur (23) rises for a layup during the fourth quarter of a West Catholic Athletic League basketball game against St. Ignatius in San Francisco on Jan. 13, 2023. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

It was all looking so good for the St. Ignatius Wildcats.

They had avoided any sort of Bruce-Mahoney Game hangover and led the St. Francis Lancers by 15 late in the third quarter, even with Pepperdine commit John Squire sidelined by an ankle injury.

But turnovers and missed free throws began to pile up, St. Francis center Nate Heppberger’s putback in the final seconds forced overtime and the Lancers ultimately won in double OT, 74-69.

“All the mistakes that didn’t hurt us on Tuesday killed us tonight,” head coach Jason Greenfield said following the loss. “It was hard to execute on offense because we don’t know the plays and we didn’t have a real mismatch to go to.”

St. Ignatius (8-6, 2-2 West Catholic Athletic League) led 43-28 late in the third quarter after Raymond Whitley’s steal and layup, but surrendered the final five points of the quarter and the first two of the fourth. The Wildcats went scoreless for five minutes after Aidan Gotch’s 3-pointer, and St. Francis (9-4, 2-2 WCAL) fired back with a 12-0 run, taking a 47-46 lead with 3:14 to go on two AJ Tennathur free throws.

“Not knowing the plays makes it really hard,” Greenfield said. “Squire’s our bailout, and inexperience led to a lot of bad decisions.”

While the three freshmen in the starting lineup have shown plenty of upside, including combining for 39 points in Friday’s loss, their inexperience helped cause a significant chunk of SI’s 26 turnovers.

St. Ignatius guard Caeden Hutcherson (1) looks for an open teammate during the fourth quarter of a West Catholic Athletic League basketball game against St. Francis in San Francisco on Jan. 13, 2023. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

Caeden Hutcherson snapped the scoreless drought with a corner three with 2:04 remaining, but Tennathur’s contested drive evened the score at 49 with 58.3 seconds left. The Lancers gave the Wildcats a gift by fouling Whitley on a 3-point attempt with 36.1 to go, and he made two of three free throws. St. Francis then rushed a late 3-point try and missed, and Andrew Adkison’s putback failed, but Heppberger, who likely would have been boxed out by a healthy Squire, scored on a third chance to force overtime.

While the Wildcats did make four of six free throws across the two overtime periods, they went just 3-for-10 from the charity stripe in regulation. Hutcherson made two to tie the game with five seconds left in the first extra period after Tennathur had given the visitors a 59-57 lead with two free throws of his own.

Though the Wildcats struggled at the line, St. Francis was 13-of-17 at the line. Tennathur, who finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists, made eight of his 11 tries.

SI should have held the ball for the final shot in overtime, but was called for a line violation on an inbound play with 13 seconds left. Tennathur then drew a foul when St. Francis tried to inbound, and made both of his attempts.

It seemed at times like a game that neither team wanted to win. The Lancers started the second overtime strong on layups by Tennathur and TJ Motil, then went up seven when Gavin Everett knocked down a 3-pointer, but let the hosts get back within three behind Marcus Bast, who scored five of his nine points in the second OT period.

Everett’s two free throws with 37.3 left that put St. Francis up 71-64 should have sealed the game, but Kreekor Karageuzian was fouled on a layup at the other end, making it a four-point game with 30.5 left. A Karageuzian steal set up Whitley for a layup with 23.1 to go, and the Wildcats held the ball with a chance to tie after Everett split a pair of free throws with 18.2 to go, but a rushed 3-pointer missed and Tennathur made two more free throws with 7.1 left to put the game out of reach.

The St. Francis Lancers sing their alma mater song following a 74-69 double overtime win over St. Ignatius in San Francisco on Jan. 13, 2023. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

For the first three quarters, it looked like depth would carry the Wildcats to victory. St. Ignatius held an early 12-4 lead and went up by double-digits early in the third thanks to not only Hutcherson, Whitley and Steele Labagh, but help from little-used bench players. Davis Wong hit a 3-pointer to open the second quarter, and Andrew Cudden dished out back-to-back assists to give the ‘Cats a 29-19 lead before a deep Motil three sent the Lancers into the locker room down by seven.

“I should have played the bench more than I did,” Greenfield said. “I probably shouldn’t have gone as deep as I did, but I could have used guys to keep others fresh.”

SI’s depth was further compromised when Labagh injured his shoulder in the fourth quarter.

Motil, son of St. Francis head coach Mike Motil, scored a game-high 21 points. He had just seven at the end of the third quarter, but scored eight in the fourth and six more across the two extra periods.

St. Francis guard TJ Motil (3) tries to score over St. Ignatius forward Raymond Whitley during the fourth quarter of a West Catholic Athletic League basketball game in San Francisco on Jan. 13, 2023. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

“We had done a really good job locking (Tennathur and Motil) down early,” Greenfield said. “I have to go watch the film to figure out what slipped. We knew the sets, and we still lost them.”

Heppberger finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Everett scored six of his 11 in the eight overtime minutes.

Whitley led the home side with 15 despite shooting just 3-of-9 at the line. Hutcherson scored nine of his 14 in the first half, while Labagh added 10, all in the first three quarters. Karageuzian finished with eight points, eight assists and seven rebounds, but sat for a significant stretch in the fourth quarter. Theo Lamb, who started in place of Squire, had seven points in the first three quarters and finished with 10 rebounds.

Squire, who injured his ankle at the end of the third quarter on Tuesday, was in a boot on Friday night. He underwent an MRI earlier in the day, and the team is awaiting results.

The Wildcats host Bellarmine (6-7, 1-3) on Tuesday. The Bells upset Serra (7-6, 0-3) on the road on Friday, holding on late for a 52-49 win after opening up a 15-point advantage.