First was the sluggish first half, which included 13 turnovers and translated into an eight-point deficit, that had to be dealt with.
Next came the task of playing the last four minutes of a tight game without the team's top scorer, rebounder and leader.
The No. 7-ranked Mercy Magic stared at a possible fourth straight Catholic League loss a number of times last night against No. 9 Archbishop Spalding but, in the end, chose to look the other way.
Clutch outside shooting, buckle-down defense, and perfect work at the free-throw line made the difference in the final minutes as the Magic came away with a 53-45 win over the Cavaliers in Severn.
Mercy improved to 16-8 overall and 7-4 in the Catholic League. The Cavaliers fell to 14-9 and 6-4 in league play.
When All-Metro senior center Jamie Vogtman fouled out with 3: 46 left, the Magic already had worked its way out of the first-half hole to lead, 44-43.
Spalding, playing without injured starter Lauren Schaech, quickly reclaimed the lead at 45-44 on two free throws by senior guard Amy Campion. But the Cavaliers' offense wasn't heard from again.
Mercy guard Ashlee Courter, who sparked the second-half surge, was.
The senior co-captain scored all 16 of her points in the second half, including a big three-point play with 1: 42 left, to help the Magic forget all about its tough stretch and a 44-43 loss to the Cavaliers a few weeks back.
Most of Mercy's second-half answers came from the outside, where Courter, Kaitie Schuyler (12 points) and Abby Pyzik (seven points) took turns with timely three-pointers -- five in all.
"We moved the ball around a lot better in the second half and just had better spacing. We were able to find the open player, and finishing was the key. The threes came in good spots," said Courter.
Creative play from Campion, the inside work of freshman Kylie Bestul, and tough man-to-man defense helped the Cavaliers build a 27-19 halftime lead.
With just under four minutes left and Vogtman out of the game, Spalding coach Deb Taylor liked her team's chances.
"We had the match-ups in our favor, but for a couple of minutes we felt the pressure and panicked a little," said Taylor, whose Cavaliers missed on their last five shots and turned the ball over five times in the last three minutes.
"They did a better job defending Kylie in the second half. We couldn't get a straight entry in to her, so we tried to lob it in a couple times and made some turnovers. We are just struggling to put 32 minutes of good basketball together."
After watching her Magic lose three tough ones last week to No. 12 St. Frances, No. 2 St. Mary's and No. 3 Seton Keough, Magic coach Mary Ellen Marion was glad to be on the other side.
She particularly praised Courter's effort.
"When your top senior fouls out, you always wonder how your team is going to respond," she said. "They responded magnificently tonight. Ashlee is our other senior co-captain, and she wanted to take on that role. She really stepped up and showed a lot of leadership."
Pub Date: 2/04/99