EAST HAVEN — Mercy senior Kameryn King knows converting free throws is not always an easy thing to do. King proved otherwise Monday evening.
Converting on eight of 10 opportunities in the fourth quarter, King helped her team to its sixth straight victory with a 55-54 Southern Connecticut Conference interdivision decision over East Haven at East Haven High.
“It is not easy,” King said of hitting the free throws. “But, I knew I had to drain them if we were going to win this game.”
King, who finished with a game-high 31 points, may have been right as East Haven mounted a furious comeback, rallying from 12 points down early in the fourth quarter to make it a two-possession game in the final minutes.
“We started the season 2-4 and now we are 15-5,” Mercy coach Tim Kohs said. “We beat every team we lost to in the first half the second time we played them. “
Despite the loss, East Haven, ranked No. 5 in the GameTimeCT/Register top 10 poll still earned the top seed in the upcoming SCC tournament and will receive a first-round bye along with No. 2 Hamden.
Mercy, which has won 13-straight league games and 13 of its last 14, earned the No. 4 seed. The Tigers are the two-time defending league champions.
Ironically enough, The Yellowjackets rallied in this contest with leading scorer Makenzie Helms on the bench with foul trouble, then relied on her outside shooting to get within one possession late in the game.
— Mike Madera (@MikeMadera2) February 12, 2019
Helms, who finished with 21 points, drained a 3-pointer with 59.7 seconds to go to get the Yellowjackets within 48-45, then hit another trey 26.4 seconds later to get East Haven within 52-49. Helms finally got the Yellowjackets closer as her 3-pointer with three seconds to go had East Haven within 55-54, but time ran out on the comeback.
“I did not think we came out to play tonight,” East Haven coach Anthony Russell said. “We had a lack of energy and we had some fouls early. You cannot do that against a team like Mercy. They are too good for that. We know how good they are.”
In between the attempted heroics by Helms were the clutch free throws by King. King, who had given Mercy a 46-39 lead with a bucket with 2:55 to go, then went to the foul line four different times and knocked down 7 of 8 attempts in the final minute.
“Lexi (Leon) had the key free throw as she started it off,” Kohs said after his team likely locked up the fourth seed in the upcoming SCC tournament. “Then you get her (King) out there and they don’t want to foul her, and she makes the shots. You have to make free throws if you want to beat good teams like East Haven.”
Mercy (15-5) came out hitting on all cylinders, jumping out to an 11-4 lead in the opening quarter. Only a steal by Isabella Ragaini which led to an East Haven basket prevented Mercy from running away with the opening quarter, and kept the Yellowjackets in the contest.
“I thought we left some points out there in the first quarter,” Kohs said. “We had the lead and had a chance to step on them and we didn’t. You keep them in the game and they start believing and that is what happens.”
East Haven (16-4) got as close as 12-10 in the second quarter on a bucket by Alexis Pendziwater, but Mercy used a 3-pointer by Alexia Leon (12 points) and King, along with buckets by King and Leon, to take a 25-15 lead to the half.
“I thought we did a poor job defensively in the first half,” Russell said. “We had some things lead to us fouling and we got into foul trouble early. Makenzie (Helms) and (Taylor) Salato had two fouls early and you don’t want them to pick up more. At the end, defensively, we had a shot. We just kept fouling the wrong person.”
Erin Curran, who led East Haven’s comeback with a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter and another in the fourth, had nine points for the Yellowjackets, while Taylor Salato finished with eight.
Player of the Game
Kameryn King — Mercy senior led all scorers with 31 points. King scored 10 points in the decisive fourth quarter, eight coming from the free throw line.
“This is a big win. They are ranked fifth in the state. We started off 2-4 and now we are 15-5.”
— Mercy coach Tim Kohs
MERCY 55, EAST HAVEN 54
Mercy 8 7 14 25 — 55
East Haven 12 13 14 16 — 54
MERCY 55 (15-5)
Lexi Leon 4 2-2 12, Kameryn King 8 13-16 31, Sophia Finkeldey 2 0-0 4, Lilly Hedge 0 1-2 1, Vienna Knox 1 3-4 5, Rachael Cipolla 1 0-0 2. Totals: 16 19-24 55.
EAST HAVEN 54 (16-4)
Makenzie Helms 7 3-4 21, Erin Curran 3 0-1 9, Isabella Ragaini 1 2-4 4, Alexis Pendziwater 2 0-0 5, Taylor Salato 4 0-0 8, Alannah Doheny 1 0-0 2, Angelina Muñoz 1 3-4 5. Totals: 19 8-12 54.
3 Point Goals: Mercy 4 (Leon 2, King 2); East Haven 8 (Helms 4, Curran 3, Pendziwater 1); Fouled Out: Ragaini (EH)
Records: Mercy 15-5, East Haven 16-4