By Mike Bebernes
Mercy High School gave the region’s top-ranked team all it could handle for a half, but St. Mary’s of Berkeley asserted itself in the third quarter en route to a 52-33 win in the CIF State Division IV regional quarterfinal round on Thursday at St. Mary’s High School.
“My kids fought their hearts out,” said Mercy Head Coach Mike Gutierrez.
Both teams struggled offensively in the first two quarters, combining to shoot 12-for-50 in the first half, and heavily favored St. Mary’s (29-3) took a mere 17-14 lead into halftime.
“[At halftime] We were pretty hyped up, We didn’t really think we had a chance, but we proved that we did.” said Mercy team captain and Danielle Lasirona.
“[Mercy] is a really intense team and they play really hard,” said St. Mary’s Head Coach Nathan Fripp. “They’re going to get after you and you have to match their intensity level.”
Coming out of the break, the Panthers showed why they are top seed in the division, scoring three quick interior layups on their way to outscoring the Skippers 22-8 in the third quarter.
St. Mary’s used a dominant size advantage score 38 points in the paint.
“We’re so small compared to them,” said Gutierrez. “Their fifth tallest player is our tallest player.”
Forwards Emily Vann and Danielle Maudlin led the Panthers with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
The win continues a 16-game win streak for St. Mary’s
The game’s up-tempo style was a pace that the under-manned Skippers could not maintain for the entire game. Gutierrez was forced to rest his best ball handlers, particularly Lasirona.
“Danielle is our heart and soul,” he said. “We don’t have a chance when she’s not in there, but we had to give her a little bit of rest. She gave her heart and soul out there.”
Courtney Sabani led the Skippers with eight points and Mariah Masoli chipped in six.
Fripp was thankful to have tough matchup like Mercy to open up the playoffs.
“It’s a good lesson. We’re lucky that we just had more players. You’re not going to out-talent people all the time. You have to execute,” Fripp said. “When we do that we can be pretty good.”
St. Mary’s will play Piedmont High School on Saturday in the regional semifinals.