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Girls Basketball: Center Moriches topples Mercy in semifinal

Bishop McGann-Mercy coach Meaghan Macarthur 021316

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.

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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)