As the No. 8 team coming off a week that included wins over three other ranked teams, the Institute of Notre Dame's girls basketball team goes into tomorrow night's game with unranked Mercy as the clear favorite. But everyone on both sides knows that being the favorite doesn't mean much in "The Game."
The 38th annual showdown between the rivals at 7:30 p.m. at the Towson Center will be much more than just a basketball game. Last year's event drew a sellout crowd of 4,000.
In addition to family, classmates and faculty, the game also draws a large number of alumni and others who have been associated with the schools through the years.
"Nowhere in Maryland is there a girls sporting event like this," said Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion. "It's like Calvert Hall-Loyola football. That's the relationship we see, too, the rivalry."
The number of tickets has been increased to 4,200 this year. They are still available at the schools but likely won't last long at the gate.
The Indians (13-4), who won last year's "Game," have certainly had the better season so far. Still, they only beat the Magic, 53-49, in December in a game that included none of the hoopla surrounding tomorrow night's game.
The Indians did not pull ahead in that game until the fourth quarter.
"Mercy's a very talented team and we're a very talented team," said IND coach Herb Hoelter. "It's always what team comes out playing with heart and who wants the game. It often comes down to who gets the bounces."
Mercy (9-8) won two years ago, but Marion knows her team is the underdog. She has coached a few underdog Magic teams to victory in "The Game," but in 19 years at Mercy, she has been on the other side a few times, as well.
"Anyone who knows the history of this game knows it's not necessarily the team that has been doing really well that wins," said Marion. "It's the team that can play well on the big floor, can handle the pressure and the excitement and can execute."
Said Hoelter: "Anytime high school kids can play in front of 4,000 people, it's an incredible experience. I tell them to enjoy the moment."