EAST HAVEN >> There’s a healthy amount of respect girls basketball coaches Tim Tredwell and Tim Kohs have for each other’s program.
Kohs’ Mercy Tigers has been a dominant force in the Southern Connecticut Conference for several years. In the last two, Tredwell’s Hand Tigers has been every bit Mercy’s equal, if not moreso due to winning the last three games in the series.
“There is a mutual respect there. Mercy has been the cream of the crop for years,” Tredwell said. “But I think we have earned a seat at the adult table.”
So yes, it is a rivalry based upon mutual respect. These two titans ranked in the top 10 (Mercy fifth, Hand sixth currently) duked it out Wednesday night for the third straight season for the right to hold the SCC championship trophy.
No. 2 seed Mercy reclaimed the hardware, defeating top-seeded and defending champion Hand 49-39 at East Haven High.
— CT Sports Now (@CT_Sports_Now) February 23, 2017
“The SCC is what matters. We had to get better and focus on that,” said tournament MVP Samantha Chapps, who finished with 14 points. “Nothing is guaranteed. We have to work hard every single possession to be a really good team.”
It was a dominant second-half effort by Mercy (20-3) on both ends of the floor. More impressive was the defense, holding Hand (19-4) scoreless for nearly the first 4 minutes of the second half and without a basket for close to 6 minutes in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t want to give them easy shots and that’s what it came down to,” said Meghan DeVille, who finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Kohs had been hoping to see what he saw on the floor Wednesday night: his Tigers matching Hand’s intensity level, getting on the floor for loose balls and forcing tie-ups.
“They’re what I want. Tonight, we became what they are,” Kohs said. “They trap on every entry pass and the last couple games we were not tough enough to get the ball out of the trap. That’s a credit to Tim and the way those kids played. I love the way they play basketball, I thought we matched their intensity tonight.”
Although Hand’s zone defense and speed was able to force turnovers Wednesday, Hand point guard Gabby Martin was not able to penetrate into the lane much against Mercy’s D.
Kohs had Bella Santoro key on Martin and Keri Kernisan defend Gabby Egidio. And the Tigers rotated well to help double-team the ball and eventually force tough shots.
“When you’re not hitting shots and your game is to get to the rim and your game is get in the plaint and kick things. When the shots don’t go down, those kids seem even bigger and longer and their hands seem to be in every passing lane,” Tredwell said.
DeVille’s basket with 3 seconds left in the third quarter gave Mercy the lead for good, 30-28. Then Mercy hit Hand with a 12-0 run, highlighted by Kernisan’s three-point shot midway through the quarter, to put the game away.
It’s the fourth title overall for Mercy. Martin was the only player in double figures for Hand with 15 points.
“The culture of our program has changed. We expect to be successful,” Tredwell said. “Hopefully, they have set the bar high for everybody else (coming into the program).”
MERCY 49, HAND 39
(at East Haven)
Mercy 6 10 14 19 – 49
Hand 8 13 7 11 – 39
Bella Santoro 2 7-8 11, Kameryn King 2 1-2 6, Samantha Chapps 5 3-4 14, Keri Kernisan 2 2-2 7, Meghan DeVille 4 3-6 11, Lexi Leon 0 0-0 0, Tia Giansiracusa 0 0-0 0, Nicole Ladas 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 16-22 49
Gabby Egidio 1 1-2 3, Emma Sullivan 1 0-0 3, Gabby Martin 4 6-8 15, Kaitlyn Martin 3 0-0 6, Colleen Caruth 0 1-2 1, Halle Freund 2 1-2 5, Sara Wohlgemuth 1 2-2 4, Hannah Martin 1 0-0 2. Totals: 13 11-16 39
3-point goals: Mercy 3 (King 1, Chapps 1, Kernisan 1); Hand 2 (Sullivan 1, Martin 1); Records: Mercy 20-3; Hand 19-4