Girls Basketball: Some early-season ‘madness’ boosts Monarchs

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Bishop McGann-Mercy guard Brieanne Bieber, dribbling around Southold's Missy Rogers, received the tournament's most valuable player award.


March madness is still quite a way off, but a little December madness doesn’t hurt, especially for a girls basketball team hosting its own tournament for the first time — and then winning it.

The inaugural Mercy Madness Tip-Off Tournament worked out well for Bishop McGann-Mercy. Not only did the two-day tournament help prepare the Monarchs for their upcoming league season, but they won the whole thing.

McGann-Mercy held off a late comeback attempt by Southold to win the final, 38-34, on Saturday at Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School in Riverhead. The result left the Monarchs with a 2-0 record and a title already under their belt.

“It’s a good start,” said McGann-Mercy guard Brieanne Bieber.

Perhaps the best thing McGann-Mercy took from the tournament was the understanding that it has some young players like Jackie Zaweski and sisters Cari and Danielle Gehring who are providing immediate help. They help lighten the load on the shoulders of the team’s three seniors — Bieber, Anna Crowley and Karlin McIntyre.

“Every day they show me more and they learn more,” said McGann-Mercy coach Jacki Paton.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold's Abby Scharadin (21) and Bishop McGann-Mercy's Cari Gehring reaching for the ball.

On Saturday the Monarchs showed they can handle pressure and hold onto a lead.

Except for the game’s early moments, McGann-Mercy never trailed. The Monarchs scored 12 straight points as part of an 18-1 run that gave them a 21-5 lead in the second quarter. It was the first of two 16-point leads that McGann-Mercy held in the quarter.

But McGann-Mercy’s control of the game was something of a mirage. Southold (1-1), which overcame a 14-point deficit to win its first-round game over Shelter Island on Friday, wasn’t done. The First Settlers kept chipping away. Three straight baskets (the last two by Lauren Ficurilli) trimmed McGann-Mercy’s lead to 35-32 with about two minutes remaining in the game.

But Danielle Gehring banked in a runner and her younger sister, Cari, made a free throw with 56.2 seconds left to give McGann-Mercy a little more breathing room at 38-32.

Both sides missed a pair of foul shots before Southold’s Missy Rogers made a putback off a failed three-point attempt for the game’s final points with seven seconds to go. McGann-Mercy then ran out the final seconds to seal the victory.

The tournament’s most valuable player award went to an unsung heroine, of sorts: Bieber. It was a reward for her defensive work as much as anything else. Bieber guarded Southold’s primary scoring threat, Sydney Campbell. Campbell, who netted 17 points the day before against Shelter Island, was held to 3 points from a three-pointer. Bieber totaled 4 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 assists.

“She just does a lot of little things that people don’t always notice,” Paton said. “Brie doesn’t have a lot of stats. She doesn’t have all the big numbers, but every little thing she does on the court [helps]. She really controlled the tempo on the court.”

Danielle Gehring canned three three-pointers to finish with 13 points. McIntyre added 9 points.

Ficurilli was Southold’s top scorer with 13 points. She also had 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. Rogers produced 12 points, 9 rebounds, 6 steals, 3 assists and 2 blocks.

McIntyre, Ficurilli and Campbell joined Bieber on the all-tournament team.

McGann-Mercy’s 48.3-percent shooting from the field helped it overcome the fact that it was outrebounded by 37-29 and turned the ball over six more times than Southold did.

Ficurilli said Southold didn’t take McGann-Mercy lightly. “We knew it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park for us,” she said.

For the second game in a row Southold had a slow start, digging a 15-4 hole for itself.

“I guess today it was a little late, but we definitely pulled it together at the end, and it’s definitely something to be proud of because we came back,” Ficurilli said. “It can’t be discouraging. We just got to pick up from where we are today and just move on.”

Southold’s new coach, Amanda Barrilo, acknowledged the team needs to start games better, but applauded the second-half fight she saw from her players.

“I’m not concerned at all,” she said. “I thought that this was a good tournament for us to be in. We had some hard competition and saw some positives and some negatives. It’s just the start.”

SOUTHOLD 51, SHELTER ISLAND 39 Sydney Campbell hit four three-point shots and scored 17 points to lead Southold in the first round of the Mercy Madness Tip-Off Tournament on Friday and bring coach Amanda Barrilo her first win in her first game. Lauren Ficurilli, Carley Staples and Sarah Manfredi chipped in eight points apiece for Southold, which trailed by 18-4 in the first quarter.

BISHOP MCGANN-MERCY 44, THE ROSS SCHOOL 10 Karlin McIntyre scored 16 of her 19 points in the first half as McGann-Mercy charged out to a 30-2 lead by halftime of the Mercy Madness Tip-Off Tournament first-round game on Friday. Anna Crowley added 11 points.

[email protected]