In girls play, it's The Game Mercy meets IND at Reitz Arena

January 08, 1993|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,Contributing Writer

The last time these two teams met at Loyola's Reitz Arena, nearly 3,000 spectators filled the building and several hundred more were turned away at the door.

Those lucky enough to get in saw the annual renewal of one of the area's most intense high school basketball rivalries.

With a crowd of that magnitude, one might assume that Dunbar were playing Lake Clifton or Southern.

Not even close.

It was the Mercy vs. the Institute of Notre Dame girls basketball game that was the hottest ticket in town last January.

Another capacity crowd is expected at Reitz Arena tonight when No. 10 Mercy (6-4 overall, 3-1 in the Catholic League) meets IND (4-6, 1-4) in the 27th annual meeting of the two teams.

Why all the fuss over a girls Catholic League game in early January?

Tradition.

"It's just like City-Poly or Loyola-Calvert Hall in football," IND coach Jerry Hahn said. "If you look at those four schools, they have a lot of tradition, and so do IND and Mercy."

Said IND athletic director Linda King: "These schools have a legacy that passes from one generation to the next. A lot of kids' moms and grandmoms also went here. People from past generations come and watch the game. It's just something that you do."

Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion started for the Sharpshooters as a senior in the 1976 game.

"Hopefully, these girls will remember this experience and look back on it as fondly as I do," Marion said.

"When I hear the school song playing and the introductions are made, I still get a big lump in my stomach."

As members of the Catholic League, IND and Mercy play each other twice during the regular season, with the chance of meeting again in the league tournament.

The first meeting between the teams at Loyola College is the game, however.

"It's the climax of the season," said Mercy senior point guard Jenny Hershberger.

The series -- which Mercy leads 18-8 -- began in 1967, when the game preceded a Baltimore Bullets game at the Baltimore Civic Center.

The contest was moved to Loyola High School in 1971, and then to UMBC in 1975 before shifting to Loyola College in 1985.

PD Attendance figures have not been kept for the entire series, but

the crowd figures have grown steadily since 1989, when the turnout was estimated at 1,500.

"Since the game was moved to Loyola College, it's just gotten bigger and bigger because of Loyola's central location," Mercy athletic director Jane Jackson said. "The level of girls basketball has also improved. It's a more entertaining contest."

The game is the culmination of a weeklong celebration of school spirit at Mercy and IND that includes pep rallies and a faculty basketball game.

Even the cheerleaders get into the competition in an unofficial contest of halftime routines.

The fact that the game brings recognition to female athletes is not lost in the hoopla, however.

"It's great to see the biggest sporting event of the year for both boys and girls Catholic schools is a girls basketball game," King said.

Said Jackson: "Girls athletics usually takes a back seat to the boys. This game is a step in the right direction. No place else in these girls' lives will they be watched by this many people."

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