`The Game' comes down to more than just basketball for IND, Mercy

On High Schools

High Schools

February 04, 2005|By MILTON KENT

THE STAPLE OF every bad standup comedian's routine is the difference between the male and the female of the species. It usually doesn't take long for the headliner at the local chuckle hut to note that men are more logic driven, while women are supposedly ruled by their emotions.

How then, most area men will wonder, is it that the area high school basketball game this year that will draw the largest attendance will be played not by two highly ranked boys teams from public high schools, but by two Catholic all-girls schools, Mercy and the Institute of Notre Dame?

Where, pray tell, is the logic in that? Well, fellas, there is none. The Mercy-IND game, or the IND-Mercy game, if you prefer, is above your reason and sense. Deal with it.

The fact is something in the neighborhood of 4,000 people will crowd Towson Center tonight for the 39th edition of "The Game" for reasons that have little to do with the competition.

Nope, this night is about something intangible, about feelings and recollections and sisterhood.

"It's not just a basketball game," said Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion. "It's a place for families and alumnae to get involved. People reconnect for a night and relive old high school memories, whether they were players or students at the school. For girls and women, we kind of have a soft spot in our hearts for our high school years."

Both Marion, who also played for Mercy in the mid-1970s, and her IND colleague, Herb Hoelter, say it's not a far stretch to call the rivalry between the Magic and the Indians the biggest in the area, bigger than City-Poly or even Loyola-Calvert Hall, though both of those have the notice.

What those schools have that IND and Mercy don't, is the vehicle of football, a decidedly male construct, to swap war stories and to tell tales of past conquests.

And while a field hockey or volleyball game could easily provide the means for getting together, basketball has proven to be the way for Mercy and IND students, alumnae and former players to reconnect.

"All these people, the grandparents, they come," said Hoelter. "They dress up in blue and white or in red and white. It's just a wonderful high school experience. It's huge."

"It's an experience that very few high school players ever get to have," Hoelter said. "You just encourage kids to go out there and have fun. Obviously, it's an intense competition and you want to win, but it's an incredible experience for high school kids to go through. Colleges don't have this kind of thing."

Of course, graduates of Army and Navy, Alabama and Auburn, Duke and North Carolina might beg to differ with Hoelter's assertion, but you get where he's coming from. These games are big deals, bigger probably than anyone outside the circle can understand.

"There is a tremendous sense of pride that shows through both on the court and off," said Rosemary Kosiorek Meyer, who starred at Mercy in the mid-1980s. "It draws a lot of people and it's bigger than any high school game, especially girls. There was a tremendous sense of pride in playing in those games because of how many people came to see it and then the tradition. It's something that a lot of people talk about."

It doesn't hurt that the games have usually been worth talking about, regardless of records going in.

Three years ago, Mercy's B.J. Banjo made four free throws in the final 21 seconds to seal a 57-51 win, after hitting two three-pointers in the final four minutes to erase a five-point IND lead.

The next December, IND ended a 10-game losing streak to Mercy with a 63-61 overtime victory despite losing star guard Chandrea Jones to foul trouble in regulation.

As logic would hold, Jones, now a senior, should be expected to lead the eighth-ranked Indians (15-4) past unranked Mercy (5-9) in a cakewalk tonight.

But you don't have to be front row at the chuckle hut to know that logic goes out the window when Mercy and IND meet.

"The wins and losses tend to run in cycles," said Marion. "The best part of it is, `You gotta play the game.' Nothing is ever decided before the ball gets tossed up, so to speak. So, we're hoping to go out there and play with as much heart and effort as we can and we'll see how it ends when the buzzer goes off."

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