On a team led by a pair of future Division I players, lightning-quick guard Vicki Brick and dominating center Greichaly Cepero, it's easy for defenses to overlook McDonogh senior Jazmine Norton.
The 5-foot-7 guard isn't flashy and doesn't normally produce gaudy statistics. Yesterday against host No. 8 Mercy, however, she was the difference as the top-ranked Eagles stayed unbeaten with a 58-46 win.
After going scoreless in the first half, Norton scored 11 in the final 9: 42, including consecutive three-pointers in the waning minutes that turned a three-point game into a comfortable McDonogh lead.
"I was looking for something to get our team pumped up," said Norton. "We came in and we were a little sluggish. We needed a spark -- something to set us off and let Mercy know that we were winning this game."
McDonogh (12-0) struggled in the first half, trailing by as many as six. Brick and Cepero, who each finished with 20 points, were the Eagles' only offensive threats much of the way, combining to score 29 of their team's first 33 points.
With the score tied at 33, Norton helped change the game. The Eagles outscored the Magic 25-13 the rest of the way and were more aggressive on defense, holding Mercy to 1-for-17 shooting during the final 11 minutes.
Said McDonogh coach Katie Keating: "[Norton] just did it today absolutely when we needed it."
Led by forward Becky Wilson (15 points) and center Jamie Vogtman (13), Mercy (10-4) stayed in the game with hot first-half shooting (50 percent) and clutch defense. The Magic also hit 19 of 23 free throws for the game.
After halftime, however, McDonogh was noticeably more active on both ends of the court.
The crushing blow for Mercy came midway through the fourth quarter, when Norton hit back-to-back three-pointers to put McDonogh ahead 53-44 with 2: 51 left.
"Those three shots were the difference," said Mercy coach Mary Ellen Marion of Norton's fourth-quarter three-pointers and a three-pointer late in the third quarter. "They just kind of blew the game wide-open for them."
Norton said that on a team with a weapon like Maryland-bound Brick, The Sun's reigning All-Metro Player of the Year, it's important for her and other players to produce on offense.
"Everyone knows that Vicki is a very good player, and they try to double- and triple-team her," said Norton. "We know that other people have to step up and make shots."
MCDONOGH -- Brick 20, Norton 11, Cepero 20, Nelson 4, Daly 1, Johnson 2. Totals 23 9-21 58.
MERCY -- Pyzik 4, Vogtman 13, Wilson 15, Courter 2, Schuyler 11, Ables 1. Totals 13 19-23 46. Half: McDonogh, 31-29.
Pub Date: 1/04/99