Eric Sun/Special to The S.F. ExaminerSt. Ignatius guard Trevor Dunbar (10) will be playing in the Pac-12 Conference next year at Washington State.

SHC puts up a fight, but falls to nationally ranked St. Mary’s

No one can doubt the heart and tenacity of the Sacred Heart Cathedral girls’ basketball squad. That combination has been the driving force behind the Fightin’ Irish’s perennial status as a Northern California basketball powerhouse.

But toughness and grit can only go so far against a nationally ranked team with two of the Bay Area’s top recruits.

The undersized Irish put up a good fight for a half, but were ultimately worn down in the latter stages of a 64-53 loss to St. Mary’s of Albany on Tuesday night in San Francisco.

Mikayla Cowling, a 6-foot-1 forward who will be playing for Cal next year, scored 20 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and added five assists for the Panthers. Teammate Gabby Green, a 6-2 senior guard who will join Cowling at Cal, added 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists and junior forward Ma’Ane Mosley chipped in with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Despite facing a significant size advantage, the Irish actually held a 16-14 rebounding advantage in the first half and led 13-11 after one quarter of play, due in large part to the heroics of senior guard GeAnna Summers-Luaulu, who finished the contest with 27 points.

However, the game turned in the final three minutes of the second quarter, when St. Mary’s (2-1) went on an 11-2 run, highlighted by Cowling’s alley-oop lay-in that made it 30-26 at the half.

The Irish (1-1) kept things interesting for a while in the second half, but the more experienced Panthers opened a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter and were never seriously threatened after that.

Sacred Heart Cathedral coach LyRyan Russell said he was disappointed by the loss, but found some encouraging signs in the defeat.

“No doubt about it, they’re a good team, so you have to give credit where credit’s due,” Russell said of the Panthers, ranked 15th in the country by MaxPreps, a national high school website. “We’re a young team — we only have three seniors right now — and it’s just the second game of the season for us. The issues we had today can be corrected. We’ll be fine.”

Gabrielle Vigil scored nine points for SHC. No other Irish player tallied more than six.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Sacred Heart Cathedral either. The Irish take on another St. Mary’s team ranked in the nation’s Top 25, this time St. Mary’s of Stockton, on Saturday.

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