Cardinal Ritter freshman Hannah Wallace has been tasked with the impossible this season — to guard the best offensive player on every opposing team.
She has made it look easy.
Wallace held Westminster 1,000-point scorer Brooke Highmark to just 5-for-20 shooting from the field and Delesia Scott and Kristin Booker controlled the paint, combining for 32 points and 27 rebounds as Cardinal Ritter defeated Westminster 57-50 in Lift for Life’s Soulard Showcase on Saturday.
Standing at 6-foot-1, Wallace used her length to challenge jump shots and her quickness to stay with the drive. One night after Highmark went for a career-high 29 points against Eureka to eclipse the 1,000-point mark, Wallace held her to 1-for-10 shooting in the first half and forced three turnovers.
“I knew I had to keep her to whatever side she started on and I had to get a hand up because she can shoot,” Wallace said. “It was a hard task, but I was able to get through it.”
The task was made easier with the dominant performance on the glass by Cardinal Ritter (10-3), which snapped Westminster’s five-game win streak in the first meeting between the teams since 2009.
Led by Booker and Scott, the Lions outrebounded Westminster 45-16, including 23-2 on the offensive glass.
“We practice rebounding a lot — boxing out, backside rebounds and then working to get it. What we do in practice is what we did (Saturday),” said Booker, who scored 16 points and pulled down 15 rebounds.
Despite the shutdown defense of Wallace and the excellence of the Lions on the boards, Cardinal Ritter found itself tied with Westminster (13-2) as time was expiring in the third quarter.
That is when another freshman, point guard Chantrel Clayton, took control.
Held to just two points to that point, Clayton moved into the lane and hit a tough runner to beat the buzzer. Then Clayton opened the fourth quarter with a corner 3-pointer and a steal and score to open up a 47-41 Lions lead.
Late in the game, and with Cardinal Ritter struggling at the free-throw line at a 4-for-13 clip, Clayton drained 5 of 6 in the final minute to preserve the win.
“We needed those, so I made them,” said Clayton, who finished with 14 points.
The post moves of Scott and the putbacks of Booker helped Cardinal Ritter open a 13-12 lead after one quarter, but Westminster took charge in the second quarter through the strength of its secondary scorers.
Junior Carlie Vick drained a 3-pointer and found sophomore Aseanti Boone for a layup. When junior Reilly Brophy drained a left wing three, it completed a 10-0 run to open the quarter and sent the Wildcats into the locker room with a 22-15 advantage.
“Initially, I don’t think we were quite ready for the physicality, but once we got used to the pace of the game and the physicality level we settled down and went on a little bit of a run,” Westminster coach Kat Martin said.
But Cardinal Ritter made its own adjustments in the third quarter. After going 0-for-7 from three-point range in the first half, the Lions abandoned the perimeter jumpers and went almost exclusively to Scott and Booker in the paint.
Cardinal Ritter scored 25 points in the quarter, the final two on the Clayton runner that gave the Lions the lead to stay.
“We weren’t hitting (perimeter) shots in the first half so we had to go to other things, like attacking the basket and finding our mid-range shots,” said Scott, who scored 16 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.
And when Highmark tried to bring Westminster back in the fourth quarter, the defense of Wallace was unrelenting. Highmark finished with 15 points, five on the final two possessions when the outcome already had been decided. Prior to those baskets, she was just 3-for-18 from the field.
Cardinal Ritter coach Tony Condra has trusted Wallace to guard the top players in the area from the first game of her varsity career, and he has not been disappointed.
“She wants to guard the top player,” Condra said. “She is long, athletic and she accepts the challenge.”