St. Mary's keeps cool, tops No. 1 Mercy Lipton, No. 2 Saints win Catholic title, 58-48

March 03, 1997|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Emily Lipton emerged from the St. Mary's timeout tapping her index finger against her temple.

Her No. 2 Saints led top-ranked Mercy by five points with less than three minutes left in yesterday's Catholic League Tournament championship at Spalding, but Lipton reminded herself and her teammates to keep their minds in the game.

The Saints responded by playing with composure against Mercy's full-court press and by hitting seven of eight free throws to take the tournament title, 58-48.

Their 11th straight victory will clinch the No. 1 ranking for the Saints (24-4), who had held the top spot only one other week all season.

"We really wanted to end the season like this," said Saints junior Tiffany Schummer. "It's the way we all dreamt it."

Mercy (25-3), which shared the regular-season title with Seton Keough, will drop to second, ending a four-week reign and a 16-game winning streak.

Lipton, the Catholic League Player of the Year, provided the spark just as she has all season. A smooth-shooting 5-foot-7 sophomore point guard, Lipton led all scorers with 26 points -- including 12 of 15 free throws -- and had six steals and five rebounds.

"She just controls everything out there," said Mercy's Mary Ella Marion, the Catholic League Coach of the Year. "She's very strong penetrating plus she's strong from the outside. She's the total all-around package in regards to a point guard."

Lipton's calming reminder in the waning minutes proved that.

The Saints had opened the fourth quarter with an 11-point lead, but the Magic's press cut it to 47-46 on Becky Wilson's layup with 3: 50 to go. The Saints had turned the ball over twice and didn't recover on defense.

"We were beating ourselves with turnovers," said Lipton, whose team lost to Mercy, 58-54, a month ago after winning the first meeting. "We have to think and we have to be smart, because we were getting rattled and we were forcing too much. If we have possession of the ball, even if we don't score every time down the floor, then we're most likely to win."

Lipton helped the Saints recover with a baseline jumper and then Terri Daniels (17 points, 13 rebounds) fed Felicia Holloway for a layup and a 51-46 lead. Still, the Saints looked shaky, so coach Harry Dobson called the timeout.

After that, the Saints had no more trouble against the press.

"We started playing more like a team," said Schummer. "We connected person to person every pass. There's nothing you can do against a team that moves the ball as quickly as we did."

The game, appropriately, ended in a free-throw shooting contest. Both teams hit 18 field goals in the game, but the Saints, who hit the only three-pointer, made 21 of 26 from the line while the Magic hit 12 of 20.

The Magic, whose biggest lead was five just before halftime, overcame several hurdles, including foul trouble, to nearly close that 11-point gap in the fourth quarter. It went on an 11-1 run through the first five minutes of the quarter, but even then, the Magic didn't have much of an offensive rhythm, struggling especially from the outside.

Center Jamie Vogtman finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds despite spending more than a quarter on the bench in foul trouble. The Magic's only two seniors, Shannon Cohen and Adrienne DiPietro, finished with seven points each.

Pub Date: 3/03/97

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