A nightmarish 25-5 second quarter sent the St. Ignatius Wildcats to their first defeat of the season, a 71-50 home loss to the Sacred Heart Prep Gators.
“Johnny (Mrlik), my assistant coach, put it best. We lost this game a month ago,” head coach Jason Greenfield said. “We hadn’t been going at each other hard enough in practice.”
St. Ignatius (2-1) turned the ball over 12 times in the first half and got out-rebounded 14-7 in the second quarter, all while getting burned in transition by the Gators, who took a 37-12 halftime lead despite playing their fourth game in five days.
“We’re talented. We’re just not that tough yet,” Greenfield said. “We don’t know what it takes to win.”
That talent did manifest itself in the third quarter, where the Wildcats outscored SHP 24-17, but could never get the defensive stop to make a miracle comeback a possibility. Marcus Bast hit three 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the quarter to cut the deficit to 18, but Sacred Heart Prep (3-1) countered with JP Kerrigan’s and-1 to go up 42-21. SI got eight straight points later in the quarter, including six from freshman Raymond Whitley, but Aidan Holmes’ three-point play off a Drew Wagner stretch pass put the Gators up 54-34 with 25.4 seconds left in the period.
“Weakness and youth comes from being young and lacking older leadership, and we had both problems,” Greenfield said. “We haven’t been there together yet. We need a couple lessons like this to get us to realize what it takes.”
The Wildcats took much longer than normal in the locker room following the game, which Greenfield followed by meeting with his senior captains in his office.
“I can’t win without them being strong leaders,” Greenfield said. “It’s something that doesn’t really come natural to them. They’re quiet. They play hard, but I need them to shepherd other guys.”
SHP led 12-7 after a quarter, holding the Wildcats scoreless for a six-minute stretch and going on a 10-0 run before Whitley closed the opening frame with a corner three, then absolutely dominated the second. SI didn’t score from the field until the final two minutes of the quarter, by which time the Gators had gone on a 19-1 run. LJ Quattlebaum’s and-1 put the visitors up 21-8, and Sam Norris scored back-to-back baskets on a putback and two-handed dunk to extend the lead to 23 with 2:05 left in the quarter, at which time Greenfield finally called a timeout.
“I didn’t call one earlier because there wasn’t much to say,” he said.
Whitley scored off an Andrew Cudden assist out of the timeout, but Kerrigan’s four-point play with 52.3 left in the half stretched the lead to 35-10.
Kerrigan scored 15 for the Gators, his highest output on the young season. Norris, a Pomona-Pitzer commit, finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, while Quattlebaum scored a game-high 18. TJ O’Brien finished with 11, rounding out a balanced attack for an SHP team that had barely squeaked by Tamalpais two days earlier in the consolation championship of the 63rd Crusader Classic.
“They had a lot of energy,” Gators head coach Tony Martinelli said of his team. “It was a Monday night, and they were ready to play.”
Coaches often bemoan playing on Monday nights, as the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) prohibits practicing on Sundays, but neither that nor the lack of rest seemed to hurt SHP at all.
Whitley, one of three freshmen on the Wildcat roster, but the only one in the starting lineup, led his team with 16 points and eight rebounds. Just 15 years old, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound guard impressed, even in defeat.
“He’s a man,” Greenfield said. “He’s got to be more efficient, but three of his misses, he ended up putting back.”
Bast scored 12, all on second-half 3-pointers, while Pepperdine commit John Squire had seven points and eight rebounds. Squire’s one-handed dunk cut the Gator lead to 59-42, but Wagner immediately threw a full-court pass to Quattlebaum for a layup at the other end.
“We weren’t able to get back in our press,” Greenfield said of the transition defense woes. “My goal was to wear them down, since this was their fourth game in five days, and it didn’t work.”
Frustration boiled over for Greenfield in the third quarter. After a 10-2 foul differential in the first half, things reached a breaking point for the third-year head coach when Squire and O’Brien got tangled up away from the ball, with Squire falling over after their arms interlocked. No foul was called, and Greenfield was issued a technical foul shortly thereafter.
“I made my point clear,” he said.
Kerrigan made both free throws to extend the lead to 47-24. The Gators shot a perfect 16-of-16 at the line.
The Wildcats visit another young opponent on Wednesday when they head to Walnut Creek to face Northgate (1-4). Like St. Ignatius, the Broncos have just one returning starter. SI will host University (3-1) at 4 p.m. on Saturday as Greenfield and Red Devils head coach Randy Bessolo renew their friendly rivalry. Greenfield served as an assistant under Bessolo for three years.
Ethan Kassel can be reached at [email protected]