Late steal and layup gives Mercy CHSL championship

By: Thomas Franz | C&G Newspapers | Published February 17, 2014

 Farmington Hills Mercy guard Taylor Jones, who made the big steal late in the game and converted it for a layup to seal the win, goes strong to the hoop during the final.

Farmington Hills Mercy guard Taylor Jones, who made the big steal late in the game and converted it for a layup to seal the win, goes strong to the hoop during the final.

Photo by Donna Agusti

DETROIT — Farmington Hills Mercy guard Taylor Jones said she had a little bit of a headache from all the excitement immediately following the CHSL A-B championship game between the Marlins and Bloomfield Hills Marian played Feb. 16 at Calihan Hall, but it was for a good reason.

With Mercy down a point with 4.2 seconds left, Jones blocked and stole Marian’s inbounds pass underneath the Mustangs’ basket before making the game-winning layup as time expired to give Mercy a 55-54 victory.

“It felt great, one of my happiest moments,” Jones said of the last-second play and immediate mobbing by her teammates as the buzzer sounded.

With the ball, Mercy trailed Marian by three with five seconds left, but Marian coach Mary Cicerone instructed her team to foul to send Mercy to the free-throw line and prevent any chance of a 3-point shot tying the game.

Mercy guard Candice Leatherwood made both of her free throws to set up Jones’ heroics on the ensuing inbounds play.

“With Taylor (Jones) up there, you look at her sizewise, she’s not a 6-footer but she’s very long, so she gets a lot of deflections,” Mercy coach Gary Morris said. “We typically play her on the front of our press like that because of her length.”

Cicerone said that she mishandled the end of game situation.

“They got us. Hopefully, we see them again, but we had them, and I blew it,” Cicerone said. “I shouldn’t have fouled … if anything, I should’ve waited a little longer.”

Mercy’s game-winner gave the Marlins the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter when they held an 8-6 lead over the Mustangs.

Shortly after halftime, Marian held an 11-point advantage at 36-25, but Leatherwood’s 13 second-half points sparked Mercy’s comeback and eventual victory. Leatherwood finished the contest with a game-high 18 points.

“We kept just saying to the kids that they (Marian) were in a lot of foul trouble, so if we could hang close, and then our plan was to keep attacking the basket and we got a lot of opportunities a the free- throw line,” Morris said. “It was mainly, I thought, defensively, where we kept really working. Regardless of the score, we didn’t hang our heads and we kept fighting.”

Brittany Gray led Marian with 13 points while grabbing six rebounds. Kara Holinski added 12 points and Jaeda Robinson scored 10 to pace the Mustangs.

The championship game between the two teams was indicative of the previous games they played earlier this year. Marian won the first game 57-54, while Mercy claimed the second with a 40-38 win.

“It’s always been a rivalry. They’re just down the road. They’re always pretty good, and we’re always pretty good. That’s what it’s all about,” Cicerone said.

The victory capped off a very successful run for the Mercy seniors in their Catholic League careers.

“It’s the third time here in four years, and it’s not easy to get here. To get here three times and to win twice, that’s a great accomplishment and something they can be very proud of,” Morris said.

Looking ahead to the playoffs, the two teams would match up in the state semifinals. Coming into the Feb. 16 contest, both teams were ranked in the top-five in Michigan.

Marian will open up district play by hosting Farmington Hills Harrison on Feb. 26. Mercy will begin its postseason with a Feb. 24 matchup against Southfield that will be played at Detroit Mumford.