After letting a 15-point lead nearly slip away in its first meeting with No. 14 Mercy, the No. 5 Institute of Notre Dame girls basketball team made sure not to let that happen again last night.
The Indians used a height advantage at every position to overwhelm Mercy on the boards en route to a 49-35 victory before a sellout crowd at the Towson Center in the 37th annual event known as "The Game."
Although the two teams meet twice a year now in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference, one game is designated "The Game" and played amid the all-out hoopla of the long-standing rivalry between the two Catholic girls high schools.
For the Indians (15-4, 11-2), winning "The Game" meant everything, especially since none of the players on this year's team had ever won it. The last time IND won was 1996.
"We were so pumped about this game," said Katie Hoelter, IND's senior point guard. "Winning this is better than winning the championship. We know we made our coaches, our school, our parents real proud."
In the first meeting on Dec. 20, the Magic made up a 15-point deficit to tie in regulation before the Indians pulled out a 63-61 victory in overtime for their first win over Mercy in 11 tries. Last night, the Indians never trailed after Mercy's initial 3-2 lead.
"We played more composed," said IND coach Herb Hoelter. "The seniors stepped up and handled the ball and the huge difference was we stayed on the backboards. They just couldn't rebound with us."
Brooks Webster, a 6-foot-1 forward, had 15 rebounds and Chandrea Jones, a 5-9 All-Metro guard who scored 17 points, grabbed 14. Those two combined had more rebounds than the entire Mercy team as the Indians finished with a 46-25 advantage.
The Indians began extending their lead in the second quarter after Megan Haywood's follow shot pulled the Magic within 16-12. Then, the Indians took off on a 12-2 run capped by Colby Lee's turnaround jumper and two Caroline Wesley free throws.
Lee's three-pointer extended the lead to 31-16 at the opening of the second half. Mercy then mounted a comeback try, scoring eight straight points to pull within seven. This time, however, the Indians didn't let them back in. Lee hit a driving layup and fed Wesley for another layup to quell the momentum.
The Magic, whose leading scorer was Katie Dantoni with six points, shot 31 percent for the game, but at times, couldn't get even their best shots to fall.
"They had their A game tonight," said Dantoni, a 5-10 sophomore, "and we couldn't catch up."