After Friday's victory over St. Mary's left No. 2 Seton Keough alone atop the Catholic League standings, the Gators knew it might be harder to stay there than it had been to get there.
No. 7 Mercy proved that theory correct yesterday.
The Magic built an early lead and, despite quickly losing it, were within five points with 44 seconds to go before the visiting Gators escaped with a a 51-44 victory.
For a team that prefers to milk the shot clock, the Gators (20-4, 12-1 league) looked comfortable in an up-tempo first quarter. They scored 23 points, hitting nine of 10 shots from the floor in the middle four minutes.
However, the Magic (17-10, 8-5) nearly kept pace by hitting six of seven shots in the quarter and scoring 18.
"The problem for us was the pace of the game," said Gators coach Jim Stromberg. "We gave them 18 points in the first quarter. That was over half the points St. Mary's had (in the entire 47-33 game) on Friday. I knew it would be a little different story coming in here."
After the first quarter, however, the Gators settled down and executed their set offense better than the Magic did theirs.
Although Mercy, which led by as much as 12-8 in the first quarter, tied it at 26 on Kaitie Schuyler's steal and layup to open the second half, the Gators never allowed the Magic to pull ahead.
After high scorers Denise King (19 points for Seton Keough) and Jamie Vogtman (15 for Mercy) traded baskets, the Gators went on a 14-2 run that all but put the game away.
King scored seven in the spurt, capping it with a three-pointer for a 42-30 lead two minutes into the fourth quarter.
Mercy pulled within 47-42 on Vogtman's three pointer with 44 seconds left. When the Magic had to resort to fouling, Meaghan Allan and Nikki Brown hit two free throws each in the final 33 seconds.
Ashlee Courter added 11 points for the Magic. Itxaso Mallaviabarrena had nine points, four steals and three assists for the Gators.
No. 13 Archbishop Spalding 46, No. 10 John Carroll 44: Amy Campion and Yasmin Alter (16) both made three last-minute free throws to lift the Cavaliers (16-10, 8-5) to the Catholic League upset in Bel Air.
Campion and Alter's foul shots gave Spalding a five-point lead, 46-41, with two seconds left. The Patriots' Jennifer Biscoe cut the lead to two with a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Sarah Octavec led John Carroll (11-11, 8-6) with 12.
Pub Date: 2/11/99