Tonight's is one of those big games that makes Mercy basketball coach Mary Ella Marion nervous.
Her No. 12 Magic is expected by most to win "The Game," the 43rd annual showdown between Mercy and the Institute of Notre Dame, which draws a sellout crowd of about 4,500 fans to the Towson Center. The atmosphere is loud, highly charged and sometimes a bit overwhelming for the players.
This season, the Magic defeated IND, 61-26 (only one game per year gets to be The Game), and it has a 13-5 record to the Indians' 3-13. The Magic is going for its third straight win and leads the series 26-16.
"I've been coaching a few years, so I've been on both ends of these," said Marion, in her 24th season as Magic head coach. "I've been out there years when we've had a better group and IND played better than us and snuck up, and I've been out there when they've had the better group and we've snuck up on them. I think everyone plays a little bit better, runs a little bit faster, jumps a little bit higher because of the atmosphere of The Game."
What gives the Magic an edge is its experience and balance. Any of the starters could have a big game, and one of them, 6-foot Brynne Matthews, matches up well with IND's star 6-2 center, Caitlin Bopp.
IND's first-year head coach, Jeff Hargrave, is a little nervous, too. He's been the junior varsity coach the past five years, but he has never been in charge.
"There's a lot of pressure ... but most important is to play hard, compete and get a good experience from the game," Hargrave said. "I tell the girls, we've had a tough year, but this could make our season."
That's what worries Marion. It's also what makes The Game unique.
After winning four games a season ago, the Lansdowne boys basketball team seems to have figured out its formula for success. Giving up 15 fewer points per game equals a lot more victories.
Before Wednesday's postponed game against Pikesville, the Vikings (11-3 overall, 5-0 Baltimore County 2A-1A) had won nine straight, allowing an average of 49 points, down from 64 last season.
"That was probably our main focus," coach Greg K arpers said. "I told them from Day One that we're going to play good man defense, and if you want to get on the court, that's what you're going to have to be able to do."
Reginald Lewis football coach Anthony Knox got a late Christmas gift when he learned recently that his program would receive several thousand dollars in weight-training equipment from Merritt Athletic Club in Owings Mills, where Knox works part time.
"It's a total upgrade because what we have right now is pretty much nothing," Knox said.
The equipment was expected to be delivered this week.