Her team leading by two at halftime of yesterday's game with visiting St. Frances, Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion gave her players a simple message -- turn up the defensive heat.
The Magic listened.
No. 8-ranked Mercy harassed No. 14 St. Frances all over the court in the second half, limiting the Panthers to only five third-quarter points and forcing nine turnovers, taking control en route to a 57-46 Catholic League victory.
Mercy (4-1 overall, 2-0 league) threw a number of presses and traps at St. Frances (2-1, 0-1) in the first half, but the Panthers stayed close and trailed just 30-28 at the break.
In the third quarter, however, the Magic's more tenacious defense kept the Panthers scoreless for four minutes and forced eight turnovers. St. Frances got its first basket nearly six minutes into the period.
Mercy's pressure disrupted the quicker Panthers, earning fast breaks and easy baskets that lifted the Magic to a 43-33 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"That was the key right there -- the defense in the third quarter," said Marion. "We tried to disrupt them as much as we could."
St. Frances got back to within six once in the final period, but the damage had been done. Even in the final period, when the Panthers reduced their turnovers, the Magic did a good job of not letting the Panthers have good shots. With the Panthers strong at driving to the basket, the Magic cut off the drives, forced poor shots, or took charges.
Jamie Vogtman, Mercy's senior center, scored nine of her game-high 24 points in the first quarter, plus seven more in the fourth period.
"We came out harder in the third quarter [on defense]," said Vogtman, who added seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks. "We just wanted to contain them. We're a really disciplined team."
The Magic also had more depth and balance than St. Frances, which dressed only nine players and appeared tired at times during the second half.
Marion, meanwhile, used her deeper bench to rest the starters.
Ashlee Courter helped Mercy with 13 points and five rebounds. Becky Wilson added eight points and four rebounds, and Kaitie Schuyler played a strong game with seven points and six rebounds.
St. Frances was led by Kia Coady and Charity Lee, both with nine points. Lee added a game-high 11 rebounds. Timmena Wilkens and Shanell Watson added eight apiece for the Panthers, who never quite let the Magic pull away.
The Panthers weren't as patient offensively as they could have been, turning the ball over 20 times and often rushing things.
St. Frances coach Jerome Shelton said his Panthers "wanted to go up and down and play fast," but that they had some defensive problems that helped Mercy.
Pub Date: 12/12/98