Kortni Webb of No. 9 Institute of Notre Dame blocked No. 8 Mercy's chances for a Catholic League tournament title last night at the College of Notre Dame.
Mercy, which trailed by nine midway through the third quarter, rallied to tie the game at 45 with 2:38 left. But Webb rejected Stephanie Rohe's attempted 10-footer at the buzzer, and IND escaped with a 49-48 victory.
Second seed IND (18-4) advances to today's 4 p.m. final against top seed St. Mary's, a 74-43 winner over five-time defending champion Seton Keough in the first semifinal.
Earlier this season, IND handed St. Mary's its only league loss.
Mercy (18-5) raced to a 9-2 lead, but led by Melanie Vogel's 19 points, the Indians fought back for a 37-29 lead midway through the third quarter.
"After [Mercy] jumped out to the early lead, we just tried to play steady, rebound good and play solid defense," said IND coach Jerry Hahn. "We knew if we had a team effort, we could chip away at the lead."
Notre Dame opened the second half with a 12-4 run, then held off a late charge by the Sharpshooters to win.
Melanie Vogel led IND with 19 points, and Shannon Skopp added 12. Lauren Szczepaniak led Mercy with 15 points.
In the other semifinal, No. 6 St. Mary's opened the game with a 25-2 run and rolled to an impressive 74-43 win over Seton Keough.
St. Mary's (22-3), which has already earned a date with No. 5 Walbrook in the Metro Classic March 1 at the Arena by virtue of its regular-season league title, was playing for redemption.
According to St. Mary's players, the chance to knock off perennial league power Seton Keough (9-13) was incentive enough. By winning, the Saints denied the Gators a shot at their sixth straight tournament title.
"Seton Keough has always been our rival, and we'll stick it to them to make our point if we have to," said St. Mary's guard Randall Goldsborough, who scored eight before being pulled early in the third quarter.