Geared for a repeat

After returning 10 players from a 31-2 team that captured the Division IV state title last season, the Sacred Heart Cathedral girls’ basketball team appeared a lock to repeat its championship run in 2006-07.

However, that was before starting point guard Faihza Hill went down with a knee injury against Skyline of Oakland in the Irish’s 75-30 victory Dec. 9. Although the extent of the injury is still unknown (the results of the MRI exam are still pending), in all likelihood Sacred Heart will be without Hill, one of just two seniors on the team, for the rest of the season.

Still, the Sacred Heart cupboard is far from bare, as evidenced in their convincing victory over St. Patrick-St. Vincent of Vallejo, a squad many believed could challenge the Irish for Bay Area supremacy.

In Sacred Heart’s 69-41 thumping of the visiting Bruins, who were previously undefeated, the Irish got scoring contributions from nine players and emphatically provedthat one player could not make or break their season.

“Faihza is a great player and we’ll certainly miss her,” coach Brian Harrigan said. “But we really hurt teams by sending 10 or 11 girls at them every game.”

Like most of his past teams, Harrigan’s 2006-07 edition of the Irish will feature plenty of talented, versatile athletes who will press defensively throughout the game, with the result of the pressure often leading to easy baskets in Sacred Heart’s transition game.

“We work on everything as a team,” said junior guard Tierra Rogers, who, at 5-foot-9, poses a matchup headache every time she handles the ball. “And we know that our defense is the key to everything because we can turn that into offense quickly.”

Rogers is part of a core group of returnees from last season’s team that defeated Windward of Los Angeles 66-56 in the state title game. Ki-Shawna Moore, a

5-7 guard who gave big contributions as a freshman, returns, along with junior guards Lauren Bell and Rosslyn Beard, and Jazmine Jackson a 5-foot-8 junior forward.

“We play against each other in practice real hard every day,” said Jackson, who was The Examiner’s city Player of the Year as a sophomore. “Then when we get out on the floor for a game, we just do what we what do best.”

The Irish’s considerable talents have not gone overlooked this season — despite Hill’s injury, Sacred Heart is listed as the second-ranked squad in California (regardless of division) by high school sports authority MaxPreps.com.

“We play against ourselves more than anything,” Harrigan said. “We are always looking to get better and improve and we’ll continue to do that all season.”

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