MILFORD >> Few things in high school sports have been as much of a sure thing as a Mercy team making the state final, as the Tigers made four in a row from 2010 to 2013. After missing it last year, the Tigers were back in the semifinals, looking to return to Mohegan.
Unfortunately for Mercy, a Haley English strip and steal of Kendra Landy with 1.6 seconds left kept Mercy out of the final again as the third-seeded Tigers fell to second seeded Wilton 55-54 at Law High School Monday.
“I pretty much wanted anything to happen besides (Landy) scoring,” English said. “So I went for it. It wasn’t the best decision, but I got lucky.”
English snatched the ball from Landy as she drove to the basket with 1.6 seconds left, hoping to score the game-winning basket. As the Fairfield-bound Mercy senior lay on her knees under the basket, she slammed her hands against the floor in frustration.
From Mercy coach Tim Kohs’ angle, Wilton made a great play.
“You could call a foul there, you could not call a foul there” he said. “I think the guys did a good job officiating the whole game. I have no issues with anything. I thought she made a good aggressive play there.”
The loss ends the Tigers’ season in the semis for the second straight season. Mercy closes the season with a 25-2 record.
Meanwhile, Wilton moves onto the final to play South Windsor at Mohegan Sun Arena at a time and date to be announced. The Warriors are the first team since Fairfield in 2004 to represent the FCIAC in the Class LL state final.
This is Wilton’s first time playing for a state championship in girls basketball.
“It feels great,” said Wilton coach Jaclyn Porco. “I’m just so proud of the girls. They worked real hard. My four seniors, my juniors, they knew the gameplan, they stuck to the gameplan.”
The Warriors were led by Erica Meyer with 24 points on 10 of 15 shooting from the field. Karen Brosko scored 11 points and Erin Cunningham finished with 10 points. Meyer was playing with a heavy heart, after the recent death of her grandfather.
“He’d say ‘Come out and win the next one,’ ” she said, smiling. “This is a big game, but we’ve still got a championship to win.”
Mercy was led by Landy, who had 19 on six of 12 shooting and three steals, but with six turnovers. Maura Fitzpatrick had 13 points, but shot five of 17 from the floor.
In the first quarter, the Warriors pounded the ball inside to Meyer, the 6-foot-3 Providence-bound senior center. Wilton led 17-16 after the first quarter and 14 of its 17 points came in the paint.
Mercy came out punching back in the second quarter, taking a 35-26 lead into the half and holding the Warriors to just nine points in the quarter. After scoring 14 in the paint in the first quarter, Wilton was only able to score one basket inside in the second.
In the third quarter, Wilton held Mercy about five minutes before it finally scored and cut the lead to 44-41 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We can’t let a nine-point lead slip away,” Kohs said. “We weren’t getting quality shots.”
Wilton finally jumped back in front in the fourth. Meyer made a layup off a pass from English to make it 46-44. The Tigers never led again after Meyer’s early fourth quarter bucket.
But they came close.
Down 53-48 Meyer corralled a missed shot and proceeded to miss one of her own. Haley Vanty grabbed one of her six rebounds for Mercy, which called timeout and scored quickly off a pass from Vanty to a diving Fitzpatrick to make it 53-50 with under a minute left.
Mercy trapped Cunningham in the corner on the inbounds and her pass was stolen by Destine Perry, who swooped in for the layup making it 53-52, Warriors. After a few made free throws from Brosko made it 55-52, Landy scored off a quick drive to the basket, akin to the one where she would be stripped just plays later, to make it 55-54, the final tally.