Looking up at the scoreboard in the Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School gym after the first quarter, one might have done a double take, finding it hard to believe what the eyes were seeing.
Through one quarter, the Pierson/Bridgehampton Whalers had mustered only two points in their Suffolk County League VIII girls basketball game against the Monarchs.
“It was weird to look up there and see that they only had two,” said McGann-Mercy guard Anna Crowley.
A layup by Kaci Koehne that opened the game’s scoring accounted for Pierson/Bridgehampton’s only short-lived lead on Thursday night. The Whalers missed their next 10 field-goal attempts, McGann-Mercy led the rest of the way and prevailed, 40-31, pulling to within one win of clinching a playoff berth. That could come as soon as Wednesday night, when the Monarchs will host the Port Jefferson Royals.
The Monarchs (6-7, 5-3) made their life a little easier with the victory. In order to reach the postseason for the third time in four years, they need only one win from their final four league games. That’s not a bad situation to be in.
“That’s huge,” said McGann-Mercy Coach Jacki Paton.
The Monarchs accomplished a number of things with the win: They snapped a three-game losing streak. They avenged a two-point loss to Pierson/Bridgehampton on Jan. 7. They eased the pain of losing, 39-37, to the Southold First Settlers on a last-second three-point shot by Sarah Smith on Tuesday.
“We had a talk before we came out,” McGann-Mercy forward Amy Boden said after Thursday’s game. “We were like, ‘We need to come out here and act like we’re as good as we know we are,’ so that definitely helped us.”
So did a box-and-one defense and the tireless defensive efforts of Katie Gehring and Brieanne Bieber, who did what they could to keep the ball out of the hands of Sarah Barnett, the point guard who is one of Pierson/Bridgehampton’s biggest scoring threats. Barnett had 13 points, 11 in the second half.
That defense held Pierson/Bridgehampton to only 10 points by halftime. The 31 points the Whalers scored in the game was 10 points under their average.
The Whalers, who dropped to 7-8, 7-2, had their scoring chances, though. They outrebounded McGann-Mercy on the offensive glass, 16-9, but missed a number of putbacks.
“We missed a lot of shots,” said Pierson/Bridgehampton Coach Dennis Case.
In fact, the Whalers shot a miserable 26.4 percent from the field.
Case was visibly irked by the officiating, which charged his side with 22 personal fouls to nine for McGann-Mercy. As a result, the Whalers had only two foul shots while McGann-Mercy shot 13 of 26 from the free-throw line.
Case was also assessed a technical foul in what amounted to a five-point play by Gehring. After Gehring made a layup while being fouled with 48.2 seconds left in the third quarter, Case paid the price for criticizing the call. Gehring sank all three free throws for a 30-14 McGann-Mercy lead.
But Pierson/Bridgehampton, to its credit, didn’t wither away. The Whalers scored the next 10 points to make it a six-point game. They twice pulled to within five points of the Monarchs, but that was as far as they got. Two Whalers, Koehne and Sami James, fouled out in the fourth quarter and McGann-Mercy held on.
Asked if McGann-Mercy is an up and coming team, Case replied: “They’ll be O.K. I don’t know. We’re not up and coming right now. We’re having a rough time.”
Crowley and Gehring led the Monarchs in scoring with 12 points apiece, all of Gehring’s points coming in the second half. Boden had only four points, but was an impact player for McGann-Mercy, collecting 14 rebounds.
McGann-Mercy had seven scorers. That’s what Paton likes to see. She said: “That’s what we want. We want everybody to get their opportunities. That’s when we’re at our best, when everybody’s sharing the ball.”
Amanda Busiello provided Pierson/Bridgehampton with a complete game. She totaled 10 points, nine rebounds, seven steals, two assists and one block. James was held scoreless, but came down with 11 rebounds and blocked three shots.
In the end, though, it was McGann-Mercy’s night.
Boden said, “It should all be uphill from here.”