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Top Sports Stories 2018: Mercy wins hoops county title

Meaghan Smith was the common denominator. The Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School girls basketball coach must have enjoyed the fact that in 2018 her team won its first county championship since 2004. She just happened to be a freshman on that 2003-04 team.

“I feel like it’s something that Mercy’s all about, coming full circle,” she said.

The Monarchs didn’t know it while their season was in play, but last season was their final season, with the school closing in June. They made it a memorable campaign, though, using aggressive defense to rise to the Suffolk County Class C title with a 51-28 defeat of Stony Brook at Suffolk County Community College in Selden.

“It’s probably the greatest feeling of my life,” said Mercy senior Caryn Nabrizny.

Top-seeded Mercy had junior guard Karina Ellis follow Stony Brook’s top scoring threat, junior guard Beth Felix, all over the floor and hold her to 11 points, about 10 under her average.

Mercy’s Melina Santacroce, who plays with a ferocity matched by few, was phenomenal, totaling 21 points, 16 rebounds, six steals, three assists and two blocks. She didn’t commit a single foul.

Mercy’s next two games, however, were losses. The Monarchs fell to Mattituck, 58-52, in the Suffolk Class BC final and to East Rockaway, 48-42, in the Long Island final.

Against Mattituck, Santacroce showed her resolve under the basket, battling for 20 rebounds to go with 15 points. “She just plays with more passion and desire than most kids,” Smith said of the senior forward.

Santacroce produced 24 points, 17 rebounds, three steals and three blocks despite playing in foul trouble in the Long Island final at Half Hollow Hills West High School.

“The season was great,” Smith said. “They showed more than what I thought they were capable of, which is really, really awesome.”

Photo caption: The Mercy girls basketball team celebrates a win. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)