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Marian overwhelms Mercy, clinches first place in Catholic League Central

By: Ben Szilagy, February 3, 2015, 10:43 pm

Farmington Hills – Days leading up to a rivalry game, Birmingham Marian coach Mary Cicerone tries to prepare her team and herself for the worst possible outcome.

In past meetings between Marian and Farmington Hills Mercy, games were always closely contested. Tuesday night’s edition, however, was a different story.

Marian used its smothering defense to build a big second, and third quarter lead to cruise past Mercy 65-28 in a Detroit Catholic League Central Division game at Mercy.

“You always worry. You never know what’s going to happen,” Cicerone said. “Someone can get in foul trouble, or we could be having an off night. You can just create scenarios in your head.

“You don’t want to let a game get close. If you can put the game away, and not give them any hope, you don’t.”

The Mustangs (13-1, 7-0) led 12-9 after the first quarter before senior Brittany Gray, who scored 13 points, helped kick start an 11-2 run with two transition baskets before Mercy coach Gary Morris called a timeout with 3:23 left in the second quarter.

“Any time you can play a team that good the longer you can stick with them, the more confident you’ll be,” Morris said. “Early on we did some good things, then there was a stretch where they were creating some problems. We started to play too fast.

“You can’t score ten to twelve points in a possession. Against Marian it snowballs, and it goes from ten to twenty pretty quickly.”

Marian held a 30-15 lead at the half after outscoring Mercy 18-6 in the second quarter.

The steady attack continued in the third quarter behind Gray, sophomore Samantha Thomas (12 points), and seniors Bailey Thomas (eight points) and Jaeda Robinson (10 points) who helped Marian outscore the Marlins 23-7 for a 53-22 lead entering the fourth.

Cicerone said what ignited the turnaround was the team’s ability to work its offense off Marian’s full court, player on player, defense.

“We struggle a little bit,” Cicerone said. “And we weren’t executing. Then, we got our act together when we went into the full court man defense. Our girls started to play hard, and started to bear down on defense. We didn’t want to give them much room.

“The ball pressure we created allowed us to deny harder. We didn’t need our help side defense so much, which closed off passing lanes. It’s pretty crazy stuff trying to handle the ball, with nobody to pass to, when someone is all in your shorts.”

Mercy (11-3, 4-3) competed well early getting baskets from junior Zora Pullen and senior captain Taylor Jones, both of whom scored seven points. Captain Sierra Wangler added four points as did junior Katie Brice.

Despite the two teams’ familiarity with one another, Marian’s combination of size length and athleticism is tough to simulate in practice. Morris said after the game that his team’s will was taken away early.

“Their style of play is hard to simulate because of their size, length and athleticism,” he said. “Their players also dig in and play very, very hard defensively. In a game like this they can take your will away. That happens when you get flustered, frustrated, and when you look up at the score and its one sided.

“But we have to remember that it is just one game, and we’re still playing for the second seed in the Catholic League.”

Both Mercy and Marian have final league games against Livonia Ladywood before the league playoffs begin on Feb. 14.