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Top-ranked Marian eliminates rival Mercy again, advances to Class A Quarterfinals

Basketball   | Jeff Dullack

Top-ranked Marian eliminates rival Mercy again, advances to Class A Quarterfinals

Southfield – Having already beaten rival Farmington Hills Mercy twice this season, Birmingham Marian entered Thursday night’s regional final at Southfield high school not wanting to look past its rival as the Mustangs were looking to return to the Class A quarterfinals.

That’s just what Marian was able to do as the Mustangs overcame a slow start to top Mercy and eliminate the Marlins from the MHSAA Tournament for the second straight year with a 49-33 win.

Marian (23-1) coach Mary Cicerone said that she feels her team struggled at times on Thursday night and added that Mercy played well, but she will be looking for her team to get back to playing its style starting in the quarterfinals.

“I thought we did some good things,” she said. “But I think we’re struggling a little bit, trying to stay motivated. I don’t know what our excuse is, they should be motivated at this point. I thought Mercy played a good game, that was the best game that they gave us. They slowed us down a little bit, they handled the pressure pretty good. We just have to get our mojo back, the pace is too slow for us right now, we have to pick the pace up.”

In the Class A quarterfinals, Marian, ranked No. 1 in the final State Champs! Rankings will face No. 9 Waterford Kettering (23-1) on Tuesday at St. Clair Shores South Lake high school at 7:00 PM.

“I thought we did well (defensively) early on, but I thought our offense was rushed,” she said. “We rushed passes, we didn’t make them play defense for very long and get a good look. Then I thought our defense got a little haphazard, losing people on the backside. I thought we could have played with a little more energy and I thought Mercy did a nice job of spreading us out.”

With Marian holding a seven point lead midway through the second quarter after a Mercy 3-pointer from Zora Pullen, the Mustangs began to hit their stride as they would close out the first half on a 10-4 run, capped off by a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Bailey Thomas to put Marian on top, 30-17 at the break.

Cicerone said that the strong finish to the first half for her team came off of some defensive stops along with executing and picking up the pace offensively.

“That was very big,” she said. “We got some steals off the press, executed the offense much better, we talked about make the zone shift. We got some good looks and we finished, so that helped, if you make a few baskets it picks up the pace a little, so that always helps.”

Marian would then widen its lead to 38-22 after three quarters as Brittany Gray would close out the third quarter with a basket and baskets from Gray and Kara Holinski to start the fourth quarter would push the lead to 18, 42-24.

Gray led all scorers with 18 points on the night, while Bailey Thomas added in 10 points
Gray said Marian came out a bit slow on Thursday, but credited her team for bouncing back and being able to close out a third win over their rivals, which can be a difficult task.

“They say it’s hard to beat a team twice and three times could seem impossible, but they’re a good team and we were a little flat today and I think we just had kind of a big head today,” she said. “But we pulled through. They’re a good team, we had some spurts where we were looking down, but we came back together and pulled through.”

In the first quarter, Mercy jumped out to an early 4-2 lead behind baskets from seniors Sierra Wangler and Taylor Jones, but Marian would respond by closing out the frame on a 10-2 run, highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers from Thomas and Holinski to carry a 12-6 lead into the second quarter.

Mercy was led by Pullen, who scored 11 points, while Jones capped off her career with 10 points for the Marlins.