By Jeremy Balan
As a sophomore last season, Mariah Masoli led Mercy with 14 points per game, but with only six players returning from last year’s 22-9 squad, the junior appears to be ready to carry even more of the load for the Skippers.
Masoli demonstrated just that on Saturday in Mercy’s 49-26 win over host Lick-Wilmerding in the championship game of the Lick-Wilmerding tournament.
“We’re trying to pick it up this year because we lost a lot of seniors,” Masoli said. “We’re just going to keep working hard in practice. Practice makes perfect.”
She finished with a game-high 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting from the floor and was the main reason why the Skippers (3-0) cruised to an easy victory.
“She’s really stepped into a leadership role and is really doing a great job of that in practices and everything else,” said Mercy head coach Michael Gutierrez.
The game was never in doubt from the opening tip, when Mercy converted the first shot of the game on a fast-break layup by Masoli just three seconds into the first quarter and the Skippers would pull away quickly as the Tigers (2-4) had a dismal first-half shooting performance.
Lick would only score four points and did not make a single field goal in the first half, shooting 0-for-22 from the floor. While the Tigers would pick up their offense late and were only outscored by two points in the second half, the game was all but decided at the half, when Mercy had a 26-4 lead.
“We get ourselves in these big deficits and we keep fighting and fighting to get back in it, then in the fourth quarter we’re gasping for air,” said first-year Lick head coach Daniel Tesfai. “We either have to get into better shape or come out with better energy in the beginning.”
While the Tigers undoubtedly shot poorly, much of their offensive struggles could be attributed to Mercy’s aggressive, trapping 2-3 zone defense. The Skippers’ base defense has become an identity for the team in the past few years, forcing turnovers and frustrating opponents.
“When I first came to Mercy, I said I would never do a zone because I hate it,” Gutierrez said. “But I modified it. I hate passive zones, but this not a normal 2-3. Everybody’s gotta run.”
One key part of the zone is 5-foot-11 junior center Courtney Sabahi, who clogs the paint and alters shots. Sabahi was named tournament MVP after the game, partially because Masoli missed a game, and just as much for her performance in the first two games.
Sabahi scored four points and had a game-high 12 rebounds in the championship game, but had 20 points and 18 rebounds Mercy’s first-round win over Balboa and 13 points and 10 rebounds against College Prep in the second round.
Mariah Masoli – 23
Sabrina Triunfante – 6
Dominique Pepin – 6
Eudora Chen – 4
Courtney Sabahi -4
Hayley Lew – 10
Brianna San Diego – 4
Jody Fu – 4
Emma Brenner-Bryant – 4
Two players tied with 2 points