When the Institute of Notre Dame and Mercy square off in "The Game," their annual girls basketball meeting at the Towson Center, rankings and records don't usually mean much. This time, however, they did.
In a rarity for the 42 years of The Game, everything last night went as many would have predicted. No. 7 Mercy, proving too much for an IND squad with only one starter back from last season, took a 44-28 victory before a near sellout crowd of just over 3,700 (down from about 4,300 capacity because a section of bleachers was removed).
The crowd didn't really get into the game until the last five minutes when IND, which had trailed by as many as 22 points, rallied behind the hot free-throw shooting of Jordan Bateson, who hit five in a row. Shana Rochester then hit two more and Amanda Kolb hit an 18-footer to pull within 38-25 with 2:29 left.
Mercy then slowed the ball down and got a 15-footer from Mary McKay and a three-pointer from Maggie Marion to put the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference game out of reach.
Both teams looked jittery early, but Mercy's experience showed. Most of the starters for the Magic (15-3, 10-2 conference) were used to playing in The Game. Marion, a junior, hit two three-pointers in the first five minutes to fuel a 10-2 start.
"Experience was a big part of it," Mercy senior Jessica Zikorus said. "Khadija Mitchell and I have been playing since our freshman year. It's big, and it's overwhelming when you step on the court for the first time."
Indians coach Tully Sullivan agreed.
"We do have a team that's inexperienced," Sullivan said. "Technically, it's a whole new starting team from last year. First half, we got a little bit excited, and the turnovers, we had 15 turnovers in the first half and Mercy takes advantage, but I'm proud of what the team did."
The turnovers helped the Magic run its lead to 27-8 at the half after Mitchell's buzzer-beating three-pointer. Mercy led 38-16 before the Indians (2-11, 2-10) began to rally.
Mercy leads the series 26-16.