Gators crawl past Mercy, win title Seton Keough slows tempo, shuts down Magic, 51-45

Catholic League girls

High Schools

March 02, 1998|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Seton Keough's motto for this season should have been "The slower, the better."

Not only did the No. 14 Gators gradually emerge from a 4-7 start to win the Catholic League Tournament title yesterday, they did so with a slow-down offensive style that gave opponents fits.

The Gators' patient half-court game and pesky man-to-man defense tripped up No. 11 Mercy's run-and-gun plans for a 51-45 championship victory at Spalding.

"I told the kids if the score's in the 50s, we're going to be in the game," said coach Jim Stromberg, whose Gators beat four ranked teams in the last six days and swept all three games from the Magic this season.

"We don't score a lot of points," he said. "We try to take care of the ball, get a shot every time down and play good defense. We did that."

The fourth-seeded Magic had scored 82 points in upsetting top-seeded St. Mary's on Saturday, but against the Gators (18-10), Mercy (22-10) never had its offense clicking for long.

"They're very patient on offense. They use a lot of time off the clock," said Mercy's All-Metro center Jamie Vogtman, who scored a game-high 17 points. "When they swing the ball, you kind of let down and your player is behind your back getting the ball before you even know it."

The third-seeded Gators ran off screens to hit four three-pointers and got 11 points from Denise King and 10 from Meghann Allan.

Neither team led by more than eight, and then only briefly. The Gators took a 47-41 lead when Keisha Blackwell got a good roll on her short follow with 3: 08 left.

Then the Magic rallied. Vogtman hit a free throw and Kaitie Schuyler made a three-pointer to cut the lead to 47-45 with 1: 03 left.

King then missed both ends of a double bonus with all of her teammates at midcourt. Schuyler grabbed the uncontested rebound and, at the other end, was fouled on an off-balance baseline jumper with 18 seconds to go.

Schuyler hit the second free throw which cut the lead to 47-46. But after Allan hit two free throws, a point was deducted from Mercy on the scoreboard because Schuyler's free throw was not recorded in either team's score book. That gave the Gators a 49-45 lead with 14 seconds left.

Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion said she didn't think the missing point made a difference, even though the Magic turned the ball over on the next possession.

"I'm not sure it affected the kids so much," said Marion, "but you go from having a shot to not having a shot at all. Fourteen seconds. You're not going to get four points in 14 seconds."

For the Gators, the victory gives them a Catholic League championship in each of the last four years -- tournament titles in 1996 and 1998 and regular-season wins in 1995 and 1997.

This may have been the best win of all, because this year's team came so far. Early in the season, the Gators lost to St. Mary's by 46 points and struggled with injuries and internal turmoil.

"This means a lot to us," said Nessa Klein, one of five Seton Keough seniors, "because every year we've won something. It's a great feeling, because the team all came together. We just put everything aside and played as a team. There's really no word to describe it, but it feels great."

MERCY -- Pyzik 6, Vogtman 17, Wilson 6, Courter 9, Schuyler 6, Hall 1. Totals: 14 15-26 45.

SETON KEOUGH -- Blackwell 8, Walsh 4, Kearney 3, Klein 2, Becker 3, Allan 10, King 11, Brown 4, Stromberg 6. Totals: 16 15-21 51. Half: SK, 25-24.

Pub Date: 3/02/98

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