Down 11 points with a couple minutes gone in the fourth quarter yesterday, Mercy's seniors simply decided they wanted to play another day.
So the No. 7-ranked Magic clamped down on defense, boxed out on the boards, got timely baskets, and hit some big free throws in the final minutes to survive a 65-62 scare from No. 10 St. Frances and advance to today's Catholic League semifinal.
The Magic (20-11) will meet No. 6 St. Mary's, a 56-21 winner over the Institute of Notre Dame, at 1: 45 p.m. today at the Towson Center. No. 2 Seton Keough and No. 11 John Carroll will play in the other semifinal at noon, with the championship game set for 3: 30 p.m. tomorrow.
Senior center Jamie Vogtman scored 24 points to lead Mercy, including a big three-pointer with 2: 42 left that gave the Magic a 59-58 lead. Senior guard Ashlee Courter added 22 to help overcome the young, talented St. Frances team that will bring everyone back next season.
"This is the tournament, our senior year, in our gym. We didn't want to go out like that. It all came down to heart," said Vogtman. "Defense is where it starts for us, and that's what gets our offense going. We just picked it up at the defensive end and did a better job of boxing out. And we were a lot more patient [on offense], staying under control and playing our game."
Through three quarters and the start of the fourth, however, the game was more the Panthers'. They penetrated the Magic zone, recovered numerous offensive rebounds, and had the Magic offense in a hurry.
Leading 51-47 in the opening minute of the fourth, the Panthers (20-9) got a three-pointer from freshman guard Kia Coady (13 points), followed by a baseline jumper and driving layup from Timmena Wilkens (15 points) to build the game's biggest lead, 58-47.
The rest of the afternoon belonged to Mercy, which closed things out with an 18-4 run.
Courter had a three-pointer during the stretch, and the Magic hit 6 of 8 free throws in the final 1: 30. St. Frances, its roster dominated by freshmen and sophomores, missed nine of its last 10 shots and turned the ball over four times.
"Experience plays a lot in big games. This season, we learned in the Catholic League you have to play 32 minutes," said St. Frances coach Jerome Shelton. "We had some shots that didn't go in, which got us a little frustrated, and Mercy did a good job on the defensive boards late in the game.
"I thought we played competitive all year," he continued. "We had a lot of new players learning our system, and they did an admirable job. The future bodes well with every player back. The Catholic League has some senior-dominated teams, so we should be in good shape next year."
Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion was quick to give her seniors, Vogtman and Courter in particular, credit for their poise down the stretch.
"Our seniors pulled us back into it. They're basketball players -- live and die by it -- and they didn't want the season to end. They used all their skills and knowledge to pick us up and move us forward," she said.
St. Mary's defeated Mercy, 64-47, in their last regular-season meeting earlier this month.
No. 2 Seton Keough 62, Mount de Sales 26: Guard Denise King led all scorers with 16 points as the Gators (24-5) started their win with a 14-1 first quarter. Next for the Gators is John Carroll, a team they split with this season, losing 43-38 earlier this month.
No. 6 St. Mary's 56, Institute of Notre Dame 21: Senior Terri Daniels scored her 1,000th career point in the second quarter as the host Saints (25-6) cruised. Daniels and Emily Lipton had 10 points each to lead the Saints, who led 35-4 at halftime. Daniels now has 1,004 points. Anne Parker's six points led the Indians.
No. 11 John Carroll 60, No. 13 Archbishop Spalding 48: Kristin Jasper scored 16 points and Megan Sparks had 15 points and nine rebounds as the host Patriots (14-11) outscored the Cavaliers, 20-5, in the fourth quarter. Spalding led 30-24 at halftime and by 43-40 after three quarters, but Sparks and Jasper scored seven points each during the Patriots' fourth-quarter run.
Pub Date: 2/27/99