An often heard phrase echoing throughout gymnasiums from basketball coaches is a plea to “value the basketball.”
In Tuesday’s non-league game between Bishop McGann-Mercy and Westhampton, all bets were off. The basketball traded hands between the two teams so frequently, it was like a game of hot potato. At times, the shot clock barely reset after a turnover before another turnover gave possession right back to the first team.
It was a frenetic scene, but not one the Monarchs necessarily mind.
It’s an up-an-down, intense defensive pressure style the Monarchs play and turnovers are an expected byproduct. Still, Tuesday’s total proved too much to overcome.
In a game of huge swings, the Monarchs saw an 11-point third quarter lead evaporate into a 46-37 loss at McGann-Mercy High School.
By the time it was over, the teams had combined for 80 turnovers in a 32-minute game. The Monarchs won (or lost) that battle 43-37.
Before the game, Mercy coach Matt Brisson encouraged his players to turn the game into a track meet. The Hurricanes were willing lace up the cleats as well.
“We struggle in halfcourt offense, so we try to play pressure defense to help our offense with some fastbreaks,” said Westhampton coach Mike Polan.
The Hurricanes trailed 33-22 just past the midway point of the third quarter after a jumper from Mercy’s Emily St. Louis. It was all Westhampton after that. The Hurricanes went on an 18-0 run to go ahead 40-33. The Monarchs finally got back on the board with a free throw from Mia Behrens with 1:05 left, but they couldn’t get closer than five.
For all the turnovers in the first half, the Monarchs still managed to get points, mostly by shooting at an exceptional clip. Field goal attempts were few and far between, but when the Monarchs got a shot, they were remarkably accurate, connecting for 60 percent.
But in the second half, things quickly went south. The Monarchs got more field goal attempts, but couldn’t find a way to put the ball in. The Monarchs shot 3 of 27 (11 percent) from the field in the second half.
The fast-paced style of play for Mercy is buoyed by constant substitutions, often four or five players at a time. It added up to nine different players scoring for the Monarchs, led by seven apiece from Julia Cintron-Leonardo and Mary Reiter. St. Louis and Savannah Hauser both scored six points.
“His kids play hard,” Polan said, “and it made it difficult for us offensively. Their physical play took us right out of the game, especially in the first half.”
The Hurricanes had the early advantage when they went on a 13-0 run in the first quarter. The Monarchs answered with a 13-0 run of their own to take a 17-13 lead early in the second quarter.
But when the Hurricanes went on a run in the third quarter, the Monarchs had no answers. The Monarchs fell to 1-4 this season and they’re currently 0-1 in League VIII. Their league loss to Pierson Friday occurred in similar fashion. The Monarchs led that game 27-19 at halftime, but wound up scoring 11 points in the second half to fall 40-38. They scored only twice in the fourth quarter.
Learning how to close games will be the next step.