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CAN’T STOP, WON’T STOP: St. Monica’s Briana Harris goes strong to the basket in between several St. Joseph defenders on Thursday. The Mariners won 71-59. With the win St. Monica’s record improves to 4-1 in Camino Real League play and 18-5 overall. (Morgan Genser editor@www.smdp.com)

ST. MONICA — The St. Monica Mariners improved to 4-1 in the Camino Real League with their Thursday night win over the St. Joseph Jesters, 71-59.
Basketball is a game of runs and this contest was loaded with them. The Mariners started off slow, giving up the first five points to the Jesters. Senior guard/forward Briana Harris then took matters into her own hands, scoring 10 straight points for St. Monica. St. Joseph responded with a 7-2 run to end the quarter, pulling to within four.
To start the second quarter, the Mariners went on an 8-2 run, but again, the Jesters made a push and cut St. Monica’s lead to seven at the end of the half, 35-28.
In the second half, St. Monica’s pressure defense started to take over, allowing only 10 points to St. Joseph in the third frame.
But St. Joseph would not go away, scoring eight straight points in the first 90 seconds of the fourth quarter, highlighted by two back-to-back three-pointers by guard Lauren Hong.
After a timeout, St. Monica scored five unanswered points, sealing the victory.
“St. Joseph always fights,” said Mariners head coach John Skinner after the game. “You gotta expect when you make a run, they’re going to bring a run right back.”
Throughout the game, St. Monica’s star players, Harris and senior center Melissa Maragnes, were mired by foul trouble, prompting junior guard Katrina Balatico to step up. She finished with 17 points and 5 assists, making five shots from beyond the three-point arc.
“[Balatico] has been consistent all year,” Skinner said. “She hit some big threes tonight and really created separation and really helped us get going when [Harris] had to sit a decent amount because of the foul situation.”
“When two of our main scorers couldn’t finish as well as they usually do, having a rough night,” Balatico said, “we all knew we had to pick it up and certain players had to step up their roles.”
Mariner freshman Elena Kostadinov had a big night off the bench, scoring 14 points, eight coming in the second quarter alone. Maragnes would finish with 13 points, 7 boards and 5 assists.
Despite flirting with a triple-double (25 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists), Harris was still a bit disappointed with her performance.
“I could’ve done better with my free throws,” she said.
For St. Joseph, junior forward Jazmine Gandhi and junior center Michele Pennala played well, each scoring 18 points. The loss puts the Jesters at just 1-4 in league play.
St. Monica’s next game is a non-league match against the Marymount High School Sailors on Saturday. Tip-off is at 2:30 p.m. The high school is located at 10643 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles.


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