Darrion Trammell, Matt Redmond and their teammates remember exactly how last year’s Jungle Game ended. Parker McDonald’s fadeaway 25-foot heave, sandwiched between two St. Ignatius defenders and the Serra student section. The shot falling through the hoop as the buzzer sounded. The endless rush of Padres fans on to the floor.
That moment has provided ample motivation heading into this year’s short trip to San Mateo.
The Wildcats have beaten Serra just once in the Padres’ building in 15 years, but have drawn closer and closer over the past two. It’s all part of the program’s rise under fourth-year head coach Rob Marcaletti.
Marcaletti has emphasized developing toughness in the program through physical play and weight training, the type of qualities that have made Serra a dominant program over the last 15 years under head coach Chuck Rapp.
In Marcaletti’s first year, an inexperienced SI team lost the Jungle Game by 24. The next year, the Wildcats hung around until the final minutes, leading to an 11-point loss to the eventual state champions. Then there was last year’s heartbreaker, when they had the lead until the final minutes.
“We’re definitely ready,” said Trammell, just minutes after winning another mammoth rivalry game, the Bruce-Mahoney, over Sacred Heart Cathedral on Tuesday. “That moment’s been eating us alive for a whole year.”
Not only is St. Ignatius (9-4, 2-1 WCAL) coming off a win in the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi River, but the Wildcats are getting healthy at the right time. Wrenn Robinson, who missed the prior week with a heel injury, scored 12 points on Tuesday and Neal Begovich added four in his first action in nearly a month.
The 6-foot-8 Begovich will be a matchup challenge for Serra, which has been without its two tallest players — 6-foot-6 junior Cade Rees and 7-foot-1 Oregon State commit Jack Wilson — who are missing the entire season with injuries. Still, the Padres (9-4, 1-2) have found success behind a deep rotation with as many as 10 players, headlined by McDonald and another versatile guard, Colin McCarthy.
Rapp, who missed the previous season after recovering from hip surgery, is 14-2 in Jungle Games. SI has defeated Rapp’s teams in Serra’s Morton Family Gymnasium just twice, in his first year in 2001 and a 57-54 shocker in 2012 behind 20 points from sophomore point guard Trevor Dunbar.
For Redmond, one of SI’s trio of three-year starters and a San Bruno native who grew up with numerous Serra players, Friday will be especially meaningful. His 3-pointer with 59 seconds remaining gave St. Ignatius a 58-56 lead in the fabled 2017 game, and he had a close-up view of McDonald’s miracle shot and the massive rush of Serra fans celebrating on the court.
Needless to say, there’s no shortage of storylines for this typically enthralling WCAL tilt.
Prep Focus writer Ethan Kassel covers high school sports throughout the Bay Area. If you have a story tip, game to watch or player to track, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.