Squandering a 12-point lead in Tuesday’s shocking loss at Serra served as a wakeup call for the Archbishop Riordan Crusaders, both on the court and from the bench.
For head coach Joey Curtin, it led to a realization on Thursday that helped shape Saturday’s 67-51 win at St. Ignatius, snapping a nine-game head-to-head losing streak against the Wildcats — eight in the West Catholic Athletic League, and one in the playoffs.
“I had an epiphany Thursday after going over film,” Curtin said. “I was looking at the matchups and realized we could slow down their top guys by going triangle-and-two.”
The plan delivered shimmering results, with Chimae Ugbaja holding Wrenn Robinson to just eight points while Justice Turner went pound-for-pound with Neal Begovich as Riordan (12-4, 4-1 WCAL) pulled away in the second half, leading by as much as 24 en route to the win, the first time the Crusaders had won in the Sunset District since 2011.
Begovich led St. Ignatius (7-8, 3-2) with 16, but Turner matched him, doing so by shooting 4-of-6 on 3-pointers. Ugbaja, a 28-percent 3-point shooter last year, made three of his five attempts and the Crusaders went 8-for-16 from beyond the arc.
Bryce Monroe made just one of his three from downtown but slashed to the hoop all night, drawing contact at every juncture. He went 9-of-13 at the free throw line and scored a game-high 28, part of his remarkable consistency against St. Ignatius. In two meetings last year while playing for Sacred Heart Cathedral, he scored 28 and 29.
The hosts faced an early 9-3 deficit but led 18-16 in the second quarter on back-to-back threes by Robinson and held a 21-20 advantage after a Begovich drive to the hoop, but Riordan closed the half on a 9-2 run. The lead grew to 10 early in the third quarter, sat at 14 when the period ended and was as large as 24 down the stretch before the Crusaders starters got to sit for the final minutes.
“We just overthought our offense and played slower than we had been lately,” said St. Ignatius head coach Rob Marcaletti after his team’s three-game winning streak came to an end. “The ball was stagnant and we weren’t aggressive.”
Though the Wildcats bench outscored the Riordan starters 9-0 (Zach Taylor-Smith scored six for St. Ignatius), 10-for-17 free throw shooting and sluggish play overall ensured a home loss for the ‘Cats in WCAL play, just their second over the past two years.
Serra 67, Sacred Heart Cathedral 55: The Padres remained tied for first in the WCAL with Riordan and Mitty by dominating at the free throw line. Cade Rees scored a game-high 21 for Serra (12-3, 4-1), making all eight of his free throws while the team made 22 of 25 overall. Parker McDonald scored 14 points and Dominic Bartlewski added eight. The Padres attempted just seven 3-pointers, making three, but they hardly needed to go beyond the arc with the constant trips to the charity stripe.