Mercy gives Doves early run, but Western pulls away, 74-37 Noel Classic

December 30, 1992|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Contributing Writer

In the first quarter of yesterday's Noel Classic semifinal at Archbishop Spalding, sixth-ranked Mercy gave top-ranked Western its toughest opposition of the year.

Then they played the rest of the game.

For Mercy, what started as a glimmer of hope ended in a 74-37 Western win.

After the Sharpshooters slowed the pace and trailed 18-12 early in the second quarter, Western scored 25 of the next 31 points and never looked back, using a dominating full-court press to force turnovers, then converting them on the offensive end.

"We didn't expect [as tough a game]," said the Doves' Kim Smith, who along with teammate Tesha Tinsley led all scorers with 16 points. "They slowed up our intensity, and we had to take what came to us."

It was the Doves' pressure defense, however, that turned around the game. Western forced 38 Mercy turnovers, including 13 in the second quarter when the Doves pulled away.

"In the end, our turnovers killed us," said Mercy coach Mary Ellen Marion. "Every time we had a turnover, [Western] converted it into points.

"Turnovers killed us."

The Sharpshooters, led by Gayle Belz (13 points), got as close as 52-30in the fourth quarter, but could pull no closer.

"I'd say that Mercy is the best team we've played this year," said Western coach Breezy Bishop. "They changed our momentum and changed our intensity. Our defense won it for us."

The Doves, 8-0 and ranked No. 19 nationally by USA Today, advanced to tonight's 8 p.m. championship game against the winner of last night's other semifinal between two-time defending champion No. 5 St. Mary's and No. 14 Archbishop Spalding.

Mercy (5-3) will meet the loser of that game for third place tonight at 6.

Earlier in the afternoon, No. 12 McDonogh and Sonia Chase provided the day's most exciting finish.

Trailing 31-21 to Broadneck after three quarters, the Eagles rallied to tie the game at 38 with seconds left. After the Bruins lost possession on a three-second violation, Chase ran the ball up the court to the near sideline, and leaped, spun in the air and threw up a 30-foot prayer that banked in at the buzzer to give her team a 41-38 win.

"I've hit those in practice and a couple at halftime, but never to win the game," said Chase, who led all scorers with 20 points. "I was just thinking, 'Give me the ball, give me the ball.' I felt I could make it."

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