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Marian nearly pitches a fourth-quarter shutout in CHSL semis, pulling away from AA Gabriel Richard late

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, February 19, 2020, 11:42 pm

NOVI — Defense travels, and it does not graduate.

But it does need to get goosed a bit, every once in a while.

Year after year, Mary Cicerone’s Birmingham Marian teams are built on a foundation of solid defense, but the veteran coach wasn’t real happy with the energy her Mustangs were bringing to the table in Wednesday’s Catholic League Bishop Division tournament semifinal against Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard.

Until the fourth quarter, that is, when the Mustangs held the Irish scoreless until 11.8 seconds remained in the game, using that 14-2 margin in the quarter to blow open a one-point game, and win, 43-30.

“We had to figure it out sometime, and dig down and play some defense. I thought we were a pretty good defensive team, but they were getting in the lane, kicking it out — too easy, too easy,” Cicerone said. “I’m really disappointed. I just don’t think we came with any energy, and Gabriel Richard put it out there. I told them, ‘They’ve got nothing to lose.’ I was just disappointed in our intensity.”

The victory advances the Mustangs to Sunday’s tournament championship game, set for a 7 p.m. tipoff at University of Detroit-Mercy’s Calihan Hall. It will pit the No. 24-ranked Mustangs (14-3) against the No. 23 Marlins (16-2) of Farmington Hills Mercy. 

Marian has won the last two CHSL titles, and eight of the last 12. 

Mercy has won three of the other four in that span. 

But the for the first time in a long time, it looked like the Mustangs might legitimately have problems making it there. 

The Irish (9-8) got a buzzer-beater to end the first quarter from Lainey Garbarz to finish off a 7-0 run and tie the game at 9-9. Gabriel Richard led 21-20 at the half, and trailed by just one, 29-28, headed to the fourth quarter.

“They shot the ball well, and they executed. I knew they would, because they’re getting better every game,” Cicerone said. “They’ve got fighters. They’ve got some kids that just work. They won every loose ball.”

Lainey Garbarz hit a 3-pointer to give the Irish their halftime lead, and Savannah Wing hit a 3 with 1:15 left in the third to give the Irish a 28-27 advantage — their last. 

The only player who came off the short bench for the Mustangs, Grace Rotter, hit a pull-up jumper with 35 seconds left in the third to give Marian the lead for good, then got the shooter’s bounce on a 3 with five minutes remaining in the fourth to give Marian a 34-28 lead. 

“At this point, she’s playing way better defense than Shannon, and that’s what we needed,” Cicerone said of Rotter subbing in for the still recuperating Shannon Kennedy, who isn’t yet 100 percent from an ankle injury that cost her time this season. “She (Rotter) can score, too. She’s young. She makes her boo-boos. I thought she brought some energy, too.”

The Mustangs were without injured senior guard Sophia Mancini, and had two more kids on a school mission trip to Guatemala, leaving the bench filled with junior varsity players. As a result, Cicerone played just six players in the game. 

“Losing Sophia is huge, because she’s a scorer, and a ball-handler, and my best defender on the ball,” Cicerone said. 

Sarah Sylvester carried the scoring load, putting in 19 points, while Anna Herberholz had 10, half of that coming on free throws in the final 1:42 of the game, as the Mustangs were trying to churn clock to limit Gabriel Richard’s possessions. 

The Irish missed four free throws in the fourth, along with a number of shots from the field, and didn’t score in the period until Caitlyn Magolan hit both ends of a one-and-one with 11.8 seconds left. 

Lainey Garbarz led Gabriel Richard with nine points, while Rileigh Garbarz had eight and Wing had seven.