By Jeremy Balan
On the surface, Mercy High School’s 67-39 win over visiting Pinewood on Thursday appeared to be just another blowout win for the undefeated Skippers this season.
But this one meant just a little bit more.
The win is Mercy’s (18-0, 3-0) first against Pinewood since both teams moved to the West Bay Athletic League’s Foothill Division in the 2008-09 season, but it was also coach Michael Gutierrez’s 200th win with the school.
“Sure, it’s nice to beat Pinewood, but we have bigger fish to fry,” Gutierrez said. “Our goals are to win our league, which we have a chance to this year, and a [Central Coast Section title]. We’re 18-0 now, and that’s important to this program, but if we lose to Menlo on Tuesday, it doesn’t really matter.”
Mercy was again led by the standout play of guard Mariah Masoli, who simply could not miss in the first quarter. The senior hit all six shots she took from the floor in the quarter and scored 16 points.
“I’m confident in my shot, and after my first two, I had the feeling I was going to make them and I was in the flow of the game,” said Masoli, who finished with a game-high 28 points.
Masoli hit four 3-pointers on five attempts, but took as many shots in the first quarter as she did in the rest of the game.
“For her, those outside shots are like layups,” Gutierrez said. “Even on a fast break, that’s a good shot for her. She’s definitely the best player in the City.”
Masoli’s hot start allowed the Skippers to open up a 22-7 lead after the first quarter and the Panthers (10-8, 0-3) never made a significant dent in the deficit.
The Panthers amped up their defensive pressure after the first quarter to better defend Masoli, an the Skippers responded by going into the paint. Mercy forwards Courtney Sabahi and Nia Ilalio combined to score 24 points and have been one of the most significant advantages for the Skippers this season.
“They’re both talented, and that’s a feature we haven’t had here in 10 years,” Gutierrez said. “We can go outside with Mariah and inside with Courtney and Nia.”
Pinewood relied almost entirely on long-distance shooting to try to cut into the Mercy lead, chucking up 38 3-pointers, but only connected on eight attempts.
“We hit a couple shots, but I think we can shoot way better,” said Pinewood assistant coach Anna Tracy, who was serving as head coach due to the suspension of Doc Scheppler. “We’ve been struggling the last couple of games with 3s, but that’s what we do. They shoot so well in practice, we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop, because they can go off.”
The Panthers are admittedly a different squad from the dominant teams Pinewood has had in recent years, but that didn’t diminish the moment for the Skippers.
“We were trying to win this for our coach and it is especially a good win because it came against Pinewood and because we did it at Mercy,” Masoli said.
Mariah Masoli – 28
Nia Ilalio – 14
Courtney Sabahi – 10
Nelly Escobar – 6
Christina Haight – 4
Marissa Hing – 13
Kelly Doran – 8
Monique McDevitt – 6
Gabi Bade – 5
Kendahl Wallis-Lang – 4