Archbishop Spalding's girls basketball team knew heading into yesterday's matchup with visiting Mercy that to stop the Sharpshooters, first they had to stop junior guard Stephanie Rohe.
Rohe, who entered the game averaging 21.3 points per game, still managed to get her 21points, but it wasn't enough. The host Cavaliers held on in the final seconds to defeat their guests from Baltimore, 44-42, to stay in contention for the Catholic League title.
"This was an extremely big game for us," said Spalding coach Paul Leimkuhler. "If we would have lost we would have been all but eliminated (from the Catholic League regular-season race)."
The Cavaliers (6-6 overall, 2-2 in the league) jumped out to a 10-6 lead in the first quarter but, more importantly, drew a pair of early fouls from Rohe. Forward Jackie Cordery tallied six of the Cavs' 10 first-quarterpoints by freeing herself down low and beating Mercy defenders to the baseline for the uncontested layup.
The Cavaliers dominated the offensive boards throughout the first half and frequently were awarded second and third shots for their persistence. Crashing the boards for Spalding and apparently frustrating the Mercy frontcourt were seniors Jen Metrinko and Megan Earley.
Earley, a 5-foot-11 center, contributed nine points in the game, including six in the second quarter, while 5-foot-9 forward Metrinko finished with six.
Spalding got what proved to be the break of the game at the 2-minute, 56-second mark of the second quarter when Rohe reached in and picked up her third personal foul. Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion wasted no time in pulling her star.
With Rohe on the bench and two sophomores running the offense for Mercy, Leimkuhler decided to implement a full-court press to create some quick turnovers.
Were the Cavaliers successful?
When Rohe left the game, the Sharpshooters were trailing by four, 18-14. By halftime, the Cavaliers had increased that margin to 28-16.
"We had two sophomores handling the ball but we worked against the press all week and I didn't think it was going to be a real problem,"said Marion. "I don't know what happen, but I don't think they were handling the ball with much confidence."
With Rohe back on the hardwood in the second half, the Sharpshooters had visions of a come-from-behind victory. Those visions did not come into focus, however, until the fourth quarter, when, following three shots from Rohe, the visitors pulled to within two, 38-36.
Mercy took the lead for the first time with 3:06 remaining on a bucket from Rohe.
The Cavaliers then tied the contest at 42 with 28 seconds left when Mar Aguado hit the front end of a one-and-one. The Cavaliers, who failed to hit a shot from the floor in the final quarter, secured the victory in the waning moments when Earley and sophomore Amy Langville each netted the front end of their one-and-one opportunities.
Langville finished the game as the Cavs' leading scorer with 15 points, followed by seniorguard Jackie Cordery with 12.
"We were bound and determined to stop her," said Leimkuhler, who inserted the triangle-and-two defense in the hope of containing Rohe. "Our plan was to always have a man on her.
"We held her to five points in the first half but in the second half she just kind of ran by us. I could tell our girls were getting tired and she was just taking the ball and going coast to coast. She's an excellent player."