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No. 11 Institute of Notre Dame makes it five straight wins over Mercy in 'The Game'

Before the start of the 52nd edition of “The Game” at Towson University’s SECU Arena, the longstanding girls basketball rivalry between Institute of Notre Dame and Mercy, IND senior Ja’Lyn Armstrong sat on the bench soaking it all in before her name was announced during pregame introductions.

It would be the fourth and final time she would take the floor in the event and she wanted to savor every minute. And just like last year’s game, she did her part Friday night to make the No. 11 Penguins walk off with a 39-30 win over the Magic before about 3,300 at SECU Arena.

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IND improved to 15-6 and 10-1 in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference. It’s the first time the Penguins have won five straight games in the series with Mercy (7-11, 4-8), which still holds a 30-22 edge.

“It meant so much with the emotion of the game, the fans and just coming all together to play with my sisters. There’s no better feeling,” said Armstrong, who was named IND’s Most Valuable Player of the game after scoring a team-high nine points. She was one of six IND players to score at least six points.

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The magnitude of the game — and the nerves that come with it — was evident by the first quarter, which ended with Mercy leading 7-6, and the final score. On Wednesday, the streaking Penguins were able to put up 71 points in an easy win over Mount Carmel, but Friday’s basket was tougher to find most of the way.

The Penguins were able to execute their offense efficiently in a second quarter that would prove to be the difference.

Trailing 7-6 after one, they scored the first 15 points of the quarter in building a 23-11 halftime lead to provide enough of a cushion.

Armstrong, who was the hero in last year’s 39-26 win with 19 points, once again took on the lead role to jump start the Penguins. She scored six of her points in the second quarter, added a couple assists and also did her share on the boards at both ends. Her driving layup with 51 seconds to play provided the biggest lead at the half at 23-9.

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Behind junior point guard Ada Clare Tempert, who finished with 10 points and played tireless defense throughout, the Magic played hard from start to finish, cutting the lead to 10 points three times in the fourth quarter. Tempert was named Mercy’s Most Valuable Player of the game.

The SECU Arena doors opened at 6 p.m. for the 7:30 start and a good chunk of the crowd was already there. Sister Mary Anne Smith from Mercy, who attended her first game in 1969, was one of the spectators to find her seat early. Among the pregame ceremonies included both school’s choir’s singing their alma maters and both pep squads putting on impressive step dancing shows.

“It’s a very highly charged rivalry that’s been going on for many, many years. But it’s also a great spirit of friendship between the schools, which makes it special,” she said. “The really good game are the ones that are still close all the way to the end. It just adds the excitement and makes it that much more fun.”

At the start of every season, the Penguins have lofty goals set and winning “The Game” is one of the bigger ones. Coach Robert DuBose said there’s nothing like it.

“Just the atmosphere makes it different,” he said. “How many high school teams can say they will play in front of 3,000, 4,000 and sometimes 5,000 people year in and year out in one of the best arenas in the state of Maryland. It’s a friendly rivalry, but it can get chippy sometimes and you expect that.”

M – Curry 3, Tempert 10, Edwards 4, Franklin 9, Adams 5, Henson 2. M. Huebler 2. Totals: 9 8-18 30

IND – Russell 6, Armstrong 9, DuBose 6, Williams 6, Isokpunwu 6, Ferguson 7, Taylor 3. Totals: 16 6-17 39

Half: IND, 23-11

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