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City teams are making a strong case for defense

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Boxing metaphors are usually the clichés of choice for high school basketball coaches searching for the words to describe a physical, low-scoring game.

But after watching his Riordan boys’ team edge St. Ignatius 42-39 two weeks ago, Crusaders coach Rich Forslund thought things surpassed even the "sweet science."

"It almost seemed like two sumo wrestlers going at it," Forslund said.

It’s been that kind of year for basketball in The City, where few field goals come easy and finals in the 40s have become the norm.

Two of San Francisco’s top boys’ teams are no exception. Riordan (18-2, 7-2 West Catholic Athletic League) is allowing an average of just 42.7 points per game in conference play, up from 39.4 after surrendering 69 to Mitty on Saturday. St. Ignatius (15-4, 6-3) is not far behind, allowing an average of 43.7 points in WCAL games.

Wildcats coach Tim Reardon attributes the low scores to familiarity within the league, good scouting and officials allowing teams to play through contact.

But he cringes when he hears games described with the U-word.

"The only thing that bothers me is when people say ‘Wow, that was a really ugly game,’" Reardon said. "It’s just that the teams scout each other so well and know each other’s tendencies, so it can get really hard to score."

Lick-Wilmerding girls’ coach Nathan Lundy-Gonzalez has watched team after team struggle to score against his squad this season. The Tigers (15-7, 8-1 Bay Counties League West) have held teams below 20points more times (four) than they have allowed more than 45 points (three). Lick-Wilmerding is allowing 31.6 points per game in BCL play, after permitting an average of 45.9 points in league play last season and finishing 3-11 in league games.

"For the first three weeks of practice, I don’t think we worked on offense once," Lundy-Gonzalez said. "The key is [guards Trisha and Traci Chang]. They just pressure the ball constantly and force a ton of turnovers."

Other teams playing well on the defensive end include the Gateway girls (25.8 overall, 23.7 in BCL Central games), the Washington girls (38.4 in Academic Athletic Association games), the Wallenberg boys (50.7 AAA) and the Lowell boys (51.1 AAA). The Sacred Heart Cathedral girls are allowing a WCAL-low 35.2 points after Tuesday’s 48-35 win over St. Ignatius.

Those five teams are 40-3 in leaggue play this season.

Stewart update: International Studies Academy forward Dominic Stewart, one of the top scorers in the AAA, will suit up but not play when the Cobras (10-7, 7-2) host Balboa today at 5 p.m. The senior was cut on the white of his left eyeball during Thursday’s 69-56 win over Lincoln and he was taken to the hospital after the game. His vision is fine and ISA coach Rudy Russell said Stewart will return to the court Friday at Marshall.

melliser@examiner.com