On a night when most people preferred to stay inside and curl up by a warm fireplace, the snowy weather was not going to stop those who love “The Game” from coming to watch the 53rd edition of it.
Despite the conditions outside, the Institute of Notre Dame and Mercy found lots to enjoy inside SECU Arena at Towson University on Friday night. Truth be told, IND had much more fun than the Magic, scoring the first 11 points and rolling to a 69-27 victory.
IND (7-11) has won “The Game” six years in a row. Mercy still holds a 30-23 lead, but the Magic simply could not match up physically with the Penguins. IND was bigger, stronger and faster than Mercy (3-10), and it showed from the start.
That’s why the Penguins ran out to an 11-0 lead and held a 21-5 edge after one quarter. IND limited the Magic to one basket and led 7-0 before Mercy even could get a shot.
“They always find a way to get [fired] up at [this] game,” IND coach Rob DuBose said. “It’s always special when you can beat Mercy in the big game.”
Eniya Russell led IND with 21 points, 11 of which came in the second half. Russell made four 3s from long range over a Mercy zone that was packed back in at times — the team made 10 3-pointers overall — and earned her team’s Most Valuable Player honor for this game.
“Last year, I was nervous,” she said. “This year, I had to redeem myself. I was trying to play smart in [the second half].”
Ajae Petty finished with 13 points. She scored the game’s first five points, needing just over a minute to do so, starting the Penguins on the road to a 36-9 halftime lead.
Chanell Henson topped Mercy with nine points and was the team's MVP. The Magic made just two baskets in the first half and missed 10 of 15 free throws. Mercy also committed 15 turnovers in the first two quarters that the Penguins often took advantage of.
Overall, the Magic played better in the second half, scoring 18 points, but coach Mary Ella Marion said her team simply had too much trouble at both ends.
“They had weapons kind of coming from everywhere,” Marion said of IND. “We couldn’t get any kind of momentum. They were the better team today.”
Still, both schools found time to have plenty of fun. Fans rose to their feet just before the opening tip, and many stayed there, screaming or holding signs throughout the game. The arena was filled with red (for Mercy) and blue (IND). Even though the Penguins took command early, the Magic fans never stopped showing their spirit.
They screamed long and loud and repeatedly let the players on the court know they were with them.
When IND would shoot a free throw in the first half, and it was in the front of the section with Mercy fans, they’d hold up and wave newspapers as if they were reading them and, well, the free throws just didn’t interest them much.
Magic fans cheered for every small thing that went right, but so did the IND fans. This was a game in which the Penguins did a lot right on offense and defense, and the IND faithful kept making noise to support their team.
Normally, in a midseason game like this, a lot of fans might have left early since the outcome wasn’t in doubt, but this contest was not like the others that either school would play this season, and not many left.
After all, it was “The Game.”
“The excitement; the hoopla,” Marion said. “I [loved] it.”
I—Russell 21, Petty 13, T. Smith 11, Nimmo 6, Williams 5, Foster 4, Taylor 3, Curtis 2, Collazo 2, N. Smith 2. Totals: 28 3-13 69.
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M—Henson 9, Gilmore 7, Coffman 4, Lesko 4, Edwards 2, Krahl 1. Totals: 8 13-25 27. Half: IND, 36-9.