It has been said before, but that doesn’t make it any less true. What happens during the regular season can be irrelevant in the playoffs, and it’s not easy beating a team three times in as many games.
The Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School girls basketball team received a painful reminder of that Saturday when its recent past success against Center Moriches counted for nothing in a Suffolk County Class B Tournament semifinal in Riverhead.
Third-seeded Center Moriches started strong and didn’t let up in its 46-35 defeat of the second-seeded Monarchs. Caroline Casey scored seven of her 16 points during the Red Devils’ game-opening 21-7 run.
McGann-Mercy never recovered.
The Monarchs, who never led, had beaten Center Moriches twice during the regular season, 41-29 and 36-27. But it was Center Moriches (11-7) that had them on their heels this time around.
Center Moriches’ two post players, Casey and Sarah Brady (11 points), gave the Monarchs (10-7) too much to handle down low. Kristina Baldanza, who averaged a team-leading 14.9 points per game during the regular season, had nine points.
Melina Santacroce led McGann-Mercy with 11 points and Mia Behrens added nine despite dealing with cramping in her right thigh.
It was a scrappy game, with both teams turning the ball over 42 times. McGann-Mercy had trouble getting its shots to fall. The Monarchs shot 30 percent from the field (12 of 40) and 9 of 22 from the free-throw line.
By halftime, Center Moriches had forged a 29-16 lead, but one didn’t need to look at the scoreboard to get a sense of the situation. The dejected, unhappy looks on the faces of the McGann-Mercy players as they emerged from the locker room for the second half said it all.
The Monarchs saw a sign of hope when Behrens netted a three-point shot, making it a 10-point game at 45-35 with 4 minutes 21 seconds remaining in the game. It was a false hope, though, as those proved to be McGann-Mercy’s final points.
Center Moriches, seeking its fifth county championship, will play No. 1 Mattituck (17-1) in the Suffolk final on Tuesday at Riverhead High School.
Photo caption: Bishop McGann-Mercy coach Meaghan Macarthur instructing her team during a timeout with 43.1 seconds left in her team’s playoff loss to Center Moriches. (Credit: Bob Liepa)