As Bishop McGann-Mercy’s first-year coach, Brian Babst, saw it, it was a win-win situation for his girls basketball team.
Babst incorporated some strategic thinking into his scheduling this season. The Monarchs can play as many as four playoff games at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, starting with the Suffolk County Class B final, if they advance that far. With that in mind, Babst arranged for Saturday’s non-league “home” game against Southampton at the college’s John A. Danzi Athletic Center. The idea was to get his players familiar with the surroundings and the feel of playing in the arena.
It may have taken the Monarchs more than half the game to feel comfortable, but once they got into their comfort zone, they ran off to a 44-34 victory. Eight Monarchs scored — not a single one in double figures — as they produced their sixth win in seven games.
The playoff-bound Monarchs (8-5, 5-2 League VIII), wearing matching green socks and sneakers, trailed by as many as 7 points at 23-16 (the halftime score) before rallying. Their unfamiliarity with the large court and the background behind the baskets may partly explain their 6-for-33 shooting in the first half. But then the Monarchs put themselves on the right path in the third quarter when they outscored Southampton, 13-5.
Southampton (5-8, 2-6 League VII), behind the leadership of its star player, Noel Hodges, charged back, though. Three free throws by Hodges, followed by her drive down the court for a layup after she blocked a shot, evened the score at 33-33 at 1 minute 51 seconds of the fourth quarter.
But a basket by Juliana Cintron Leonardo and a pair of free throws by Savannah Hauser put McGann-Mercy ahead to stay.
It was shortly after that when perhaps the game’s most pivotal event occurred. Hodges picked up her fifth personal foul and fouled out with 4:11 left and the Monarchs leading by 39-34. Southampton is not the same team without Hodges on the floor.
The Monarchs closed the game on an 11-1 run.
McGann-Mercy started three freshmen — Mia Behrens, Megan Kuehhas and Mary Reiter — as well as the team’s only two seniors, Fiona Nunez and Kayla Schroeher. Behrens (9 points, 5 assists) and Reiter (8 points, 10 rebounds) were the team’s leading scorers. Nunez finished with 7 points, 15 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks and 1 assist. Delaney Macchirole did a good job on the boards, coming down with 9 rebounds.
The Monarchs held a 48-31 advantage in rebounds, 22-10 on the offensive end.
After the game, Reiter’s teammates surprised her with cookies and cupcakes one day before her 15th birthday.
Hodges, a senior who shot 4 of 11 from the field, led all scorers with 13 points. Her statistical line also showed 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks.
Jackie Minogue added 10 points for the Mariners, who lost their fifth straight game.
Neither team shot well (Southampton’s accuracy rate was 26.4 percent while McGann-Mercy’s was 24.6 percent). The Monarchs could have made things easier for themselves at the foul line, where they shot 13 of 32.
The Monarchs recently clinched their first playoff berth in four years with a win over The Stony Brook School. They currently sit in second place, and their future looks bright.
If they do return to St. Joseph’s College later this month, they shouldn’t feel like strangers.