Mercy too much for IND in 'The Game,' 40-26

February 04, 2011|By Rich Scherr, Special to The Baltimore Sun

What makes nearly 3,000 fans show up to a late-season girls basketball game between two teams with a combined three wins?

The answer is tradition, and it was on full display Friday night at what's become known simply as "The Game," the 45th annual matchup between Mercy and the Institute of Notre Dame. Long before the teams even took the court, alumnae, their families and supporters of both Catholic schools packed the Towson Center in a scene more reminiscent of a family reunion than a heated sports rivalry.

By the time Mercy had polished off a 40-26 win in front of an announced crowd of 2,795, it had become clear that the magnitude of the event far outweighed the final score.

Still, for Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion, getting the "W" helped make an otherwise difficult season a little bit sweeter.

"It is important, because it's not good for kids to keep losing," Marion said. "They need something to kind of hang their hats on."

Mercy (2-16) has won five straight and 11 of 15 in the series, which it leads 29-16. The Magic also defeated the Penguins (2-16) — who until this season were known as the Indians — in December for their only other win.

This time, Mercy took control of the game during the latter stages of the second quarter by clamping down on defense. The Magic forced countless turnovers and at one point held IND without a field goal for a span of 14 minutes, 12 seconds.

Trailing by four, the Magic took the lead for good on Shannon Aikens' layup to open the second half — that was part of a 16-1 run that gave them a 31-20 lead after three quarters. Sophomore Aubrey Wetzelberger scored eight during the run, including a pair of three-pointers.

"At halftime, we realized that we needed to step it up if we wanted to be victorious today," said Wetzelberger, who finished with a game-high 17 points.

Marion said the key was switching to a pressure man-to-man defense after halftime.

"We thought we could put a little more pressure on their guards in the backcourt," Marion said. "We got some turnovers, which I think really helped fuel us in terms of getting some easy buckets, then knocking down some shots from the outside."

IND, meanwhile, mustered just seven points in the second half. Sophomore Jen Hahn led the team with nine points.

"The second half, I thought Mercy came out with a lot more intensity than we had," said IND coach Jerry Hahn, coaching in "The Game" for the first time in 18 years after previously guiding IND from 1982-1993. "Then we just didn't make any shots."

The game — which began the same year as the Super Bowl — is regularly the highest-drawing girls sporting event in the Baltimore area. Much like the annual football rivalry between Loyola and Calvert Hall, records of the teams have little bearing on the size and enthusiasm of the crowd.

"I told Mary Ella [Marion], 'This year we were hoping to give you a little more of a competitive game,' " Jerry Hahn said. "Maybe we fell apart at the end, but next year, don't worry — we'll be back."

Girls basketball

(at Towson Center)

Mercy 40, IND 26

IND -- Hahn 9, Caution 2, Kelly 5, Petrides 2, Jones 2, Fridley 4, Rigsby 2. Totals: 7 7-12 26.

Mercy -- Wetzelberger 17, Aikens 8, Hruz 9, Stillinghagan 1, Davis 2, McKay 2, Mohlhenrich 1. Totals: 15 9-23 40.

Half: IND, 19-18.

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