MIDDLETOWN >> Mercy held Fairfield Warde without a field goal for 18 straight minutes and cruised into the Class LL quarterfinals with a 37-22 victory Thursday night at Middletown.
The No. 3 Tigers (24-1) led just 21-19 at halftime and it appeared that the No. 14 Mustangs, who were coming off a nice win over Trumbull in the opening round, matched up well and had the perfect game plan against Mercy.
But after Molly Kerrigan made a spin move to cut Mercy’s lead to 18-17 with 2:08 left in the first half, Warde didn’t score another field goal until Carley Strachan converted a layup in the game’s final second.
“We had some spells like that this year when we went three or four minutes where we couldn’t score,” said Fairfield Warde coach David Danko. “(Mercy) picked up their intensity and were jumping our screens a lot harder. You play in a state championship and you win your league, you’re going to respond.”
Still, Warde trailed just 25-20 midway through the third quarter.
But Mercy stretched its lead when Sarah Gallo had a putback and Kendra Landy drained a corner jumper. Tigers junior forward Maura Fitzpatrick ended the third quarter with a pair of free throws, then opened the fourth quarter by draining a top of the key 3-pointer and Mercy led 34-20.
“We were reeling a little bit,” said Mercy coach Tim Kohs. “We’re used to getting out in transition and getting easy baskets. At 25-20 I’m thinking we need a stop and if we can get it to 9 or 10 we’re going to win. Gallo’s putback was a huge play. She played exceptionally well tonight. And Fitzpatrick’s three to start the fourth was huge.
Now the monkey’s off your back.”
Freshman Iliana Krasniqi had six points and senior Kailtin McKenna added five points for Fairfield Warde (16-7).
“When you’re making shots you look good,” said Danko. “The first half showed what we’re capable of. We felt pretty good. We had a good week of practice and we executed what we wanted to. Unfortunately, we didn’t produce an offensive product to stay with a quality team like Mercy.”
Fitzpatrick finished with 11 points and five rebounds. Gallo had 10 points and Landy added six points and five assists.
“Some games our shots just aren’t going to go in and we have to play through those,” said Landy. “We’ve got a long way to go, hopefully, so we have to practice hard to keep up.”
A steal and layup by freshman Daja Polk gave Warde a 12-8 lead late in the first quarter.
But Tigers senior Morgan Cahill beat the buzzer with a layup, off a nice feed from Landy, and that sparked a 10-1 run.
A corner junper from Fitzpatrick and a low post hoop from Alexis Brown capped the spurt, giving Mercy an 18-13 lead with 5:38 left in the first half.
“If you told me before the game we were going to score 37 points, I’d say we’d be in trouble,” Kohs added. “But the kids played great defensively. I thought we rebounded pretty well. So it was a great team win.”
The Tigers will host Career for the fourth time this season on Monday in the Class LL quarterfinals. Mercy has won 2 of 3 against the Panthers, including a win in the SCC championship game.
“They’re a very talented team,” said Kohs. “I said in the beginning of the year if we played them 10 times we’d be lucky to win five and they would also be lucky to win five. It’s a really tough matchup for us. They’re well coached and we’ll have our hands full. It’s going to be a great game.”
MERCY 37, FAIRFIELD WARDE 22
Fairfield Warde 12 7 1 2 – 22
Mercy 10 11 10 6 – 37
FAIRFIELD WARDE (22)
Leila Markovic 1 0-0 2, Kenzie Burns 0 1-2 1, Kaitlin McKenna 2 1-4 5, Tiara Fountain 0 0-2 0, Polke 1 0-1 2, Mollie Kerrigan 1 0-1 2, Carley Strachan 1 0-0 2, Krasniqi 3 0-0 6, Sarah Cotto 0 2-2 2. Totals: 9 4-12 22
Kendra Landy 3 0-3 6, Maura Fitzpatrick 3 4-6 11, Destine Perry 2 0-0 5, Morgan Cahill 1 0-0 2, Sarah Gallo 5 0-0 10, Taylor Fascione 0 1-2 1, Alexis Brown 1 0-0 2. Totals: 15 5-11 37
3-point goals: Mercy 2 (Fitzpatrick 1, Perry 1); Records: Fairfield Warde 16-7; Mercy 24-1