By Jeremy Balan
BELMONT — Mercy High School’s girls basketball team may not have played its best offensively against Notre Dame of Belmont in the Central Coast Section Division IV playoffs on Tuesday, but there was no let-up from its defense.
The top-seeded Skippers forced 20 turnovers and allowed the Tigers to shoot just 26 percent from the floor in a 49-30 road win over the defending section champions.
Mercy (26-2) led 33-24 after the third quarter and held the Tigers (12-15) to just six points in the fourth to pull away steadily.
“We noticed things were shaky on offense and that’s when we came back on defense, and defense wins games,” said Mercy standout guard Mariah Masoli.
Masoli led the Skippers with four steals, but also buoyed Mercy on the offensive end with a game-high 18 points, when her teammates were struggling to knock down shots.
“I don’t know how many [points] she had, but she’s [tough as] nails,” Mercy head coach Michael Gutierrez said of Masoli.
Masoli and senior forward Courtney Sabahi were the most consistent scoring threats for the Skippers (the pair shot 10-of-18 from the floor through three quarters, while the rest of the Skippers shot just 3-of-17), but junior guard Christina Haight broke out for 10 points in the fourth quarter on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor. After missing her first five shots of the game into the third quarter, Haight scored 10 of Mercy’s 16 total points in the fourth.
“My shots weren’t falling, so I had to pick it up on defense,” Haight said. “I could feel it. It was so close I just wanted to close it out and win it.”
Mercy, which hasn’t won a CCS title since 1988, will take on second-seeded Soquel in the championship game on Friday at Santa Clara University. The Knights beat Menlo 37-33 in the other semifinal prior to the Mercy-Notre Dame nightcap.
“Their record is fantastic and they are the champions of [the Santa Cruz Coast] League,” Gutierrez said. “We saw them a little bit and it’s not going to be easy. They’re not that big, but they have a lot of players who can shoot.”
Gutierrez has taken Mercy to the CCS championship game three times prior to this season, and Masoli was on the runner-up teams in her freshman and sophomore years.
“We’ve been talking all year long about how the stars are aligned for us this season,” Gutierrez said. “It’s just our job to go grab it.”
Mariah Masoli – 18
Christina Haight – 12
Courtney Sabahi – 11
Nia Ilalio – 5
Tallia Schivo – 3
Kate Larson – 14
Cynthia White – 8
Amanda Dames – 6
Ana Sciutto – 2