HARTFORD >> There was one minute remaining and only two points separated the top two girls basketball teams in Connecticut. Second-ranked Mercy had battled back from a 12-point deficit against No. 1 Capital Prep and had possession of the ball trailing 43-41.
The Trailblazers, who were coming off a draining 82-75 win over Oregon City (OR) in New York on Saturday, hadn’t lost to a team from the Nutmeg State in three years, including a lopsided win over the Tigers a year ago. And on a night when Capital Prep was held to their lowest point total of the season, they still kept that streak alive.
Mercy missed two opportunities to tie it in the final minute and the host Trailblazers made 6 of 8 free throws down the stretch to escape with a 49-43 victory Monday night in front of a stand-room-only crowd in Hartford.
“We gutted it out to the end and competed and played hard,” Mercy coach Tim Kohs said. “You have to make shots against this team and I don’t think we shot the ball well at all. You’ve got to play a very good game to beat a team like this and I don’t think we played our best game but that’s a credit to them.”
Capital Prep coach Tammy Millsaps also doled out kudos to Mercy.
“This game is not any indication of the level that we have played at in our games in New York,” Millsaps said. “But I told the kids you give Mercy all the credit for coming in here and playing tough, locking it down and playing tough defense.”
The Tigers trio of Samantha Gallo, Meghan DeVille and Mariah Dunn limited Prep’s Syracuse-bound forward Desiree Elmore (13 points) to just four field goals and only four points in the second half.
“This wasn’t Desiree’s night,” Millsaps added. “She was out of rhythm and wasn’t herself. She’s our catalyst. We kind of go how she goes but we had a team effort from the others so that was good.”
Trailblazer guards Na’Jae White (13 points), Angelique Rodriguez (10 points), Lizahya Morgan (nine points) and Desiree Davis stepped up and made some big shots, especially in the second half.
Capital Prep (9-2) led 14-8 after one quarter and 23-20 at halftime. But after Mercy sophomore Bella Santoro’s putback gave the Tigers a 26-25 lead early jn the third quarter, Davis and Morgan buried consecutive 3-pointers to spark a 12-0 run. White capped the spurt with a pair of free throws and the Trailblazers led 37-26 with 2:46 left in the third quarter.
“It came down to toughness and they just killed us on the offensive boards in that run,” Kohs said. “We didn’t score for five minutes and you know what, that’s okay. They wouldn’t have scored either if we had rebounded the ball.”
But Mercy (11-1) responded behind the play of senior guard Destine Perry, who had a game-high 17 points.
Trailing 41-29 early in the fourth, Perry ignited a 10-0 run with a pair of driving layups and Gallo’s two free throws got Mercy within 41-39 with 3:40 remaining. But the Tigers couldn’t get the equalizer.
“We made a nice run,” Kohs said. “Destine took the team on her back and made some big plays. We had two good opportunities to tie it and we got decent looks. We just didn’t make them.”
Santoro finished with eight points, while Gallo and DeVille each had six points.
“We thought about last year and we wanted revenge so we just came out as hard as we can,” Perry said. “Everybody was targeting us, saying we can’t do it. We proved everybody wrong. We’re happy with what we did.”
CAPITAL PREP 49, MERCY 43
Mercy 8 12 9 14 – 43
Capital Prep 14 9 16 10 – 49
Bella Santoro 3 2-2 8, Destine Perry 5 7-10 17, Samantha Chapps 2 0-0 4, Samantha Gallo 2 2-2 6, Meghan DeVille 3 0-2 6, Lexie Leon 1 0-0 2. Totals: 16 11-18 43.
CAPITAL PREP (49)
Desiree Elmore 4 5-7 13, Angelique Rodriguez 3 4-4 10, Lizahya Morgan 2 3-6 9, Desiree Davis 1 0-0 3, Maci Dorantes 0 1-2 1, Na’ Jae White 4 4-7 13. Totals: 14 17-26 49
3-point goals: Capital Prep 4 (Morgan 2, Davis 1, White 1)
Records: Mercy 11-1, Capital Prep 9-2.