DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Juliana Cintron-Leonardo driving against Southold/Greenport’s Kathleen Tuthill.
MONARCHS 49, CLIPPERS 40
Had Wednesday night’s high school girls basketball game between Southold/Greenport and Bishop McGann-Mercy been a television program, one would have felt a need to check the color on the screen. For one thing, there was Cari Gehring, a former McGann-Mercy player, wearing Southold/Greenport red. And there was Joe Read, a former McGann-Mercy coach, wearing a red sweater and coaching Southold/Greenport.
“It was a surreal feeling,” Gehring said. “When I went out there to shake hands with the captains, I didn’t feel like I should be on the red side. It was just a weird feeling.”
Weird turned to distressing for Gehring as the League VIII opener for both teams went to the white and green of McGann-Mercy, 49-40.
Gehring, a senior guard playing in the McGann-Mercy gym for the first time since she was a sophomore for the Monarchs, swished a 3-point shot from the corner to tie the score for the fifth time, 38-38, with 4 minutes 35 seconds to go.
Moments later, Fiona Nunez, playing with neck tightness, hit a 3-pointer herself to snap the tie and ignite a game-closing 11-2 run for the Monarchs (2-1). The Monarchs scored the game’s last four baskets on back-to-back buckets by Savannah Hauser and then consecutive shots by Dayna Young.
“They never gave up,” McGann-Mercy’s first-year coach, Brian Babst, said of his players. “We have people banged up. We have people injured. We’ve got people not here for illness and stuff like that, and the kids stepped it up.”
And disappointed the two people on the Southold/Greenport side who have McGann-Mercy ties. Read had coached McGann-Mercy’s junior varsity team for four years, but he also coached the school’s varsity football and boys basketball teams and figures his relationship with the school covered 12 years. “Coming back, it was weird,” he said.
Read said he knows most of the current McGann-Mercy players. Gehring, who attended the school for three years before transferring to Southold High School this year, knows all of them, including Nunez, who she said is her closest friend.
Read said his players took the loss hard. Perhaps none of them took it harder than Gehring, who had tears in her eyes during a postgame interview.
“I put extra pressure on myself,” she said. “I felt like I had to prove something.”
With the win came a loss for the Monarchs, who saw one of their players crash hard onto the floor while battling for the ball. Fiona Flaherty, a sophomore forward/guard, took the hard fall with 4:01 left in the second quarter. One observer at the scorer’s table said he saw Flaherty land face first onto the court.
“I was really scared,” Gehring said. “She didn’t look O.K.”
Flaherty laid down on the court while she was being attended to. After a while she sat up to a round of applause. Moments later, she stood up to more applause, but looked unsteady on her feet as she was escorted to the team bench area. The game was held up while emergency rescue personnel attended to Flaherty and took her out of the gym in a wheelchair.
“I was just glad that she was O.K. and she talked with me,” Babst said. “I think she got a little upset, a little scared and a little winded.”
Gehring, who has a reputation for being a scorer, first made it into the scorebook when she canned a 3-pointer 5:02 into the game. She was Southold/Greenport’s high scorer with 14 points, shooting 3 of 7 from the field, 2 of 5 from beyond the arc, and 6 of 6 from the foul line. In addition, she had 9 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 assist.
Cindy Van Bourgondien grabbed 13 rebounds for the Clippers (0-2).
The Clippers had a terrible time trying to find the basket. They shot a woeful 18.3 percent (13 of 71). During one long, dreadful stretch, from late in the first quarter to about midway through the third, the Clippers shot 1 for 21.
“I was hoping we were going to be better,” Read said. “I was hoping we could pull it together. We just couldn’t put the basket in when we needed to.”
McGann-Mercy’s scoring was balanced. Kayla Schroeher led eight Monarchs scorers with 10 points. Young produced 9 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steal. Megan Kuehhas added 8 points and 5 assists. Juliana Cintron Leonardo and Emily St. Louis supplied 10 rebounds each.
“It’s looking good,” Young said. “We are a lot better than last year and we’re going to get better.”
That’s Babst’s plan.
“It’s been a rough few years here,” he said. “I’ve only been on the job about a month and we’re trying to implement change and it’s the hardest thing to do, so we’re just trying to get the kids to go in the right direction. Today it was a small step in the right direction.”
Babst wasn’t blind to the sense that the game brought added spice because of the Read/Gehring connection, but he didn’t want his players to lose focus on the task at hand. “I told the kids before the game, I said, ‘You got to focus on basketball,’ ” he said. “So, they somewhat bought into the message, but I could see there was a little bit of hype around it. You heard it all day for the last few days.”
Now the talk should subside, at least until Jan. 18 when the teams meet again in Southold.
“It was a fair game, a good game, a hard-played game,” Read said. “It was everything high school basketball should be, very competitive. It was good. Both teams played hard. So, I’m happy — except for the outcome.”