Liszt dominated in the first few minutes, rattling off nine of her 11 points, to give the Magic an early seven point lead.
“They’re both sophomores, which is so exciting for our program,” Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion said of Liszt and Carroll. “Neither one of them shy away from it. They’re seasoned players, even though they’re only sophomores. We just got to work on McKenna, with her positioning. She could’ve had 20.”
A string of four turnovers in a few minutes stalled AACS’ momentum, and its net went hollow for much the first quarter. Its only lifeline came from four made shots at the foul line until senior Lydia Wood (13 points) finally broke the field-goal drought with a layup off a turnover.
But the Eagles didn’t want to go into the second quarter in a hole. Sophomore Gabby Barnes (13 points) showed AACS had signs of life when she made a 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer to tie the score at 13.
Neither offense managed much in the eight minutes before the half as both squads’ man coverage twisted up one another’s ball-handlers. The Eagles made sure to keep Liszt off the board by putting double-teaming her whenever she’d gotten the ball. The lead changed hands a few times, but AACS had a 20-18 halftime advantage.
Whereas the Magic struggled at the charity stripe (2-for-10 free throws at halftime), the Eagles thrived, making all six attempts. That’s something Mercy’s had issues with all season as weather had canceled practices and postponed games.
“I think they’re getting more and more comfortable. I had three girls on quarantine who just came back,” Marion said. “We’re trying to play as a group and learn one another in this very abbreviated season, and we have two weeks left.”
Come the third quarter, though, Mercy flipped the switch at the foul line. The Magic connected on three of their four chances.
AACS had to work around some obstacles to stay afloat, like losing senior leader Taylor Grollman to foul trouble. Coach Brian Dennstaedt advised his players to simply be patient and limit Mercy’s second chances. The Eagles shifted into a 3-2 formation and did just that, forcing Mercy to shoot outside misses that AACS converted into baskets.
“That’s all I ask,” the coach said. “Put ourselves in a spot to win and see if we can go do it.”
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AACS senior Lilly Hyre broke through to make a buzzer-beating jumper and put bring the Eagles to within one, 28-27.
If not for Wood, there wouldn’t have been an overtime. Mercy wrestled momentum away, led by Carroll’s pair of basket-and-ones. Just as time melted away, Wood wheeled to the basket and nailed the game-tying jumper.
“In terms of some of the games I’ve seen her play, this was one of the best,” Dennstaedt said. “Took a few charges, had to play really solid defense on [Carroll]. Hit some big shots. She leads physically, but also mentally, spiritually. She’s the rock of our team.”
Wood opened things similarly, splashing three points in the first 30 seconds of overtime.
Carroll wouldn’t quit. Even as her first two tries bumped off the rim, her third swirled in. Mercy never trailed again.