In what has become known as simply "The Game" between the two fierce rivals, the Institute of Notre Dame escaped with a thrilling, 67-64, double overtime win over Mercy in front of a raucous, overflow crowd last night at Towson Center.
Liz Wesley hit a key jumper from the corner with one minute left in the second extra period to push the Indians (8-11, 8-0 Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference) to a 64-59 lead. IND then made three of its next four free throws in the final 30 seconds to close out the win.
Senior guard Amber Smith led IND with 24 points, and Amanda Ward added 15. An emotional Indians coach Tully Sullivan said the win was easily the biggest of the season, and he was proud of the way his team responded despite being down for much of the second half.
"This is it," Sullivan said. "It doesn't get any bigger than this. This is our Auburn-Alabama. This is our Army-Navy. Whatever you want to call it, everything is gravy after this."
Smith appeared to close out the game for IND in the first overtime, but her basket that would have given them a 60-58 lead with seven seconds left was called off because of a charge. That call sent the IND side of the field house into hysterics, but Smith maintained her composure, and her solid play at point guard was pivotal down the stretch.
"Even though we struggled throughout the season, all we had to do was win this big game and I would be happy," Smith said. "I am honored to be a part of this big game."
Both teams had jitters in the first half, committing several turnovers. The Magic (8-14, 6-11) was able to get hot in the second half and managed to take a seven-point lead with 3:22 left in the third quarter. But IND did not quit and cut into that lead and the teams had nine lead changes in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore guard Khadija Mitchell led Mercy with 20 points, including several key three-pointers. IND, however, was too tough down the stretch.
"It is a shame someone had to lose a game like this," Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion said. "Both teams showed a lot of heart."