EAST HAVEN >> Hand junior Colleen Caruth got quite the birthday gift: an SCC championship.
It’s one she earned for herself. Caruth hit a jumper from the corner with 19 seconds left to lift the second-seeded Tigers to a 48-46 victory over No. 1 Mercy Wednesday. It was the first league title for Hand, which lost to Mercy in the championship game last season.
“It’s the best day of my life,” Caruth said. “I’m just so happy to do it with my team; they’re my best friends.”
Following Caruth’s basket, Hand got the ball back but missed two free throws. After a Mercy timeout with 5.3 seconds left, Mercy senior Destine Perry missed the potential game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.
Mercy (21-2) was the two-time defending champion playing in its fourth straight final.
“With six seconds left we ran a play and we got exactly the shot we wanted,” Mercy coach Tim Kohs said. “Destine, when it left her hand, I thought it was going in. She’s had a great year, it would have been fitting if it did go in. But it’s tough to make a challenge three with four seconds left.
“All the credit to Hand. They played great, Tim (Tredwell) did a great job of coaching that team. You can’t win them all.”
Hand junior Gabby Martin scored eight points, grabbed five rebounds and made four steals. She was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.
“This feels amazing,” Martin said. “This is the first time, I believe, in school history to win it, so it’s a big accomplishment for our team and for all the hard work we put into this season. It really feels good for our three seniors to leave them on a high note.”
Mercy led by six (36-30) entering the final quarter. Mercy led by seven with two minutes to go in the third quarter, but the lead never reached double digits.
Mercy defeated Hand 77-56 in Madison on Jan. 27 in their only meeting of the regular season.
“I was just thinking about our first game when they were up 25-7 after the first quarter, and we’re tied 12-12 (Wednesday),” Hand coach Tim Tredwell said. “I said ‘guys, we’re in great shape’. This team has always found a way in the fourth quarter. Every single time in the fourth quarter they keep finding a way. They did it again, and on the biggest of stages.”
Caruth finished with 10 points.
“She’s so capable,” Tredwell said. “She can step out and hit 3s, she’s tough, and she works her butt off. She doesn’t get nearly enough credit. She’s taking on kids so much bigger than her and she never backs down, never gives an inch. That shot right there, if she hadn’t scored a single point all year, that shot would have been a reward for every ounce of hard work she’s done. No one works harder than that kid.”
Sophomore Sam Gallo scored a game-high 14 points for Mercy. Perry and sophomore Meghan DeVille each grabbed 10 rebounds. Perry finished with nine points. Mercy turned the ball over 20 times.
“It’s hard to beat a good team when you make 20 turnovers,” Kohs said. “We had a seven-point lead at one point and we had an offensive rebound and kind of tipped it around. It kicked out to them and eventually on that possession they made a 3. I think if we had scored coming the other way and get a nine-point lead, that might have been the game. Who knows?
“They’re so tough, they might have come back anyhow, but we could never get comfortable, never could get enough breathing room. Down the stretch they were really feeling good about themselves, you could tell when they would shoot the ball. They were shooting the ball with confidence.”
Senior Gillian Kraemer also had 10 points for Hand (20-4), which has won 11 straight games.
“We’ve gotten kids to buy in,” said Tredwell, in his seventh season. “They play hard, they care about each other. They’re good players, and they’re a good team together. They found a way. Maybe it’s an unlikely game-winner, but if you watch our kids all year, you know it could’ve been anyone. Tonight it was Colleen.”
HAND 48, MERCY 46
(at East Haven)
Hand 12 8 10 18 – 48
Mercy 12 10 14 10 – 46
Gabby Martin 1 6-6 8, Gillian Kraemer 4 0-2 10, Colleen Caruth 4 2-2 10, Paula Materin 3 1-8 8, Kaitlyn Martin 1 0-1 2, Maddy Pease 0 0-0 0, Halle Freund 0 0-0 0, Emma Sullivan 1 0-0 2, Cayman Brown 0 0-0 0, Gabby Egidio 3 2-4 8. Totals: 17 11-23 48
Destine Perry 3 2-3 9, Isabelle Santoro 2 1-5 6, Samantha Chapps 2 0-1 4, Samantha Gallo 6 2-2 14, Meghan DeVille 3 2-2 8, Lexi Leon 1 0-0 3, Kameryn King 1 0-0 2, Kerri Kernisan 0 0-0 0, Mariah Dunn 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 7-13 46
3-point goals: Hand 3 (Kraemer 2, Materin 1); Mercy 3 (Perry 1, Santoro 1, Leon 1); Records: Hand 20-4; Mercy 21-2