ST. IGNATIUS — Last season, a foot fracture — suffered in a scrimmage a week before the start of the season — kept 6-foot-7 St. Ignatius forward Sam Nangle off the court. Without him, the Wildcats still managed to go 18-10, reaching the Northern California Division I semifinals, where they lost to Archbishop Mitty.
Only two players who got significant minutes on that team — Stanford-bound Neal Begovich and Wrenn Robinson — returned this season. Still finding its footing, St. Ignatius went 0-3 in the Dallas Jesuit tournament.
On Saturday, Nangle exploded for seven points, two assists and a rebound in a frantic second quarter for the Wildcats, en route to a 10-point, four-rebound night as St. Ignatius put the clamps on University, 53-33, in its first win of the season.
“We’re a young team, experience-wise, so guys are just going through a little bit of an adjustment, as we put the offense in and defense, and schemes,” said head coach Rob Marcaletti. “I’m super excited for where this team can be. That’s just what we are at this point in the season.”
The Wildcats held the Red Devils to just 12-of-46 from the field, shutting down senior Charley Moore. The 6-foot-5 wing went just 2-of-13 from the field. The defensive effort was a marked change from the weekend in Dallas, where St. Ignatius allowed an average of 57.3 points per game, capped by a 69-59 loss to Fort Worth (Tex.) Nolan Catholic.
“Those losses were phenomenal for us,” Marcaletti said. “In the past, we’ve played maybe some lesser competition early. We just masked all of our flaws. We are clear as can be on what we need to work on, and that’s what we’re attacking every day in practice.”
After a lackluster 7-7 first quarter against University on Saturday, the Wildcats held the Red Devils to just 3-of-11 from the field in the second stanza, going on a 17-6 run while shooting 7-for-11 from the floor. Nangle scored seven of St. Ignatius’s nine points on a 9-2 run headed into halftime, including a three that set University back on its heels.
“Sam’s been phenomenal this year,” Marcaletti said. “His body language, his attitude, his work ethic, he’s in the gym, he wants to get better. He knew he missed a lot of his junior year, so he’s super determined to come back … He’s going to help us a lot this season, especially defensively.”
Senior forward Jaques McFadden scored a game-high 11, but no other University player scored more than five.
Nangle and Begovich (who finished with nine points, nine rebounds and a block) held down the low post, taking away Moore’s ability to drive and forcing action to the wings, where their length proved tough to handle for Red Devils shooters, who went 4-of-18 from three.
Robinson had a rough night shooting, going 5-for-12, but was the only player other than Nangle to manage double-digit points, with 10, adding a pair of steals, a rebound and an assist.
“Neal and Wrenn, those two, they’ve been in the big games, they’ve been in the Bruce-Mahoney Game, they’ve been in the Jungle Gmae, they’ve been in all that stuff and they have high basketball IQs. When we need a big shot or a play, those are the two we go to.”
Defense, Marcaletti said, will be a hallmark of his team this season, as will Begovich, Nangle and Robinson. Their goal? To hold teams to under 40 points.
“It’s bigger than a win or a loss at this point for us,” Marcaletti said. “We’re just committed to putting it all together, and each day, getting better and adding to those layers of what we have.”