With three minutes to play in Tuesday’s game and Sacred Heart Cathedral up 40-29 against West Catholic Athletic League rival St. Ignatius, Irish forward Jazmine Jackson picked off an errant Wildcats pass, sped down the court at full speed and then stopped on a dime while keeping her dribble alive, drawing a foul on a helpless defender in the process.
It may have been only one play, but it was an apt summary of the game, in which the Irish were able to triumph because of vintage efforts from their pressure defense, free-throw shooting and steady ball-handling skills.
Jackson led the Irish with 15 points, including an 8-of-10 effort from the foul line in the fourth quarter, and host Sacred Heart forced 24 turnovers in pulling away for a 48-35 victory against the Wildcats.
The two teams matched each other defensively for the first half of the contest, with the Irish controlling a slim 24-20 lead heading into halftime.
St. Ignatius (15-5, 7-3 WCAL) closed the gap to 28-27 in the third quarter on an Erin Grady layup, but the Irish (18-2, 10-0) responded with a 14-2 run, pushing their lead to 42-29 late in the fourth quarter.
The Irish held St. Ignatius to just 15 second-half points and contained Oregon-bound Wildcats star center Nicole Canepa to just four points a single rebound during that span.
"We really tried to pressure their ball-handlers and make it difficult for them to get a clean look into Nicole," Irish coach Brian Harrigan said. "I thought we did a great job in the second half of containing them with our defense."
Jackson scored nine of her 15 points and grabbed all of her six rebounds in the second half, while Tierra Rogers chipped in 13 points for the Irish, who stretched their winning streak to nine games.
"We were a little nervous in the first half and weren’t playing that well" Jackson said. "We focused on our halfcourt sets in the second half, and made sure we got it done on defense."