St. Monica's Katrina Balatico drives in between several St. Paul defenders Tuesday night as the teams battled it out for best in league. The Mariners lost 53-49 for a 4-2 record in league and 18-6 overall. (Morgan Genser editor@smdp.com)

St. Monica’s Katrina Balatico drives in between several St. Paul defenders Tuesday night as the teams battled it out for best in league. The Mariners lost 53-49 for a 4-2 record in league and 18-6 overall. (Morgan Genser editor@smdp.com)

ST. MONICA — The top ranked St. Paul women’s basketball team on Tuesday defeated the second-ranked St. Monica Mariners 49-53 in a highly anticipated league showdown. St. Monica is now 4-2 in league play and 18-6 overall.

The Mariners gained an early advantage by securing the tip off. In a brilliant display of defense, Katrina Balatico grabbed a steal and drained a three-pointer, recording the first score of the game.

Following Balatico’s shot, Briana Harris made a trip to the free throw line, converting one of her two shots. These would be the only points the Mariners would score in the first quarter, and the only time St. Monica would hold the lead.

Harris had a standout performance, recording 28 points, more than half of the team’s total. She was the only Mariner to reach double figures.

“We just fought back, we should have fought harder,” Harris said.

After weathering the initial burst, St. Paul would make a 7-0 run to take the lead, with the score 4-7 ending the first quarter. St. Monica would trail the majority of the first half, with a half-time score of 13-24.

Feeling a sense of urgency, the Mariners ramped up their intensity in the fourth quarter making an 11-2 run in an effort to snatch a victory.

Harris put St. Monica in striking distance with a clutch three-pointer to tie the game at 44-44, with approximately three minutes remaining.

The perimeter shooting of St. Paul would prove too much for St. Monica, as Priscilla Hidalgo made a crucial three-pointer. This shot would prove to be the dagger for the Mariners. Hidalgo had 14 points on the night.

With the clock winding down, St. Monica struggled at the free throw line. The Mariners missed 13 free throws throughout the game. “We gotta do a better job at making free throws,” said John Skinner, St. Monica’s head coach.

“This was a big game and a learning experience,” said Skinner. “She [Harris] fought through some tough calls. I’m proud of her and her leadership.”

“My offense wasn’t there so I had to step up my defense,” said Balatico, who had 9 points.

“She’s been one of our most consistent players and we’ll need her if we’re gonna make the playoffs,” Skinner said.

St. Monica’s next game is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. at Mary Star of the Sea.

editor@smdp.com

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