HAMDEN >> No Southern Connecticut Conference teams have been in Mercy’s class this season. Even when teams were able to compete with the Tigers, Mercy still walked off the court with a double-digit victory.
Wednesday was a little different.
Behind 19 points and six rebounds from tournament MVP Maura Fitzpatrick and 11 points and five rebounds from Haley Vanty, the top-seeded Tigers proved they are the best team the SCC has to offer gutting out a 57-52 victory over third-seeded Hand at the TD Bank Sports Center.
Mercy, which is ranked No. 3 in the GameTimeCT / Register Top 10 Poll, captured its second straight SCC crown. Mercy has won 25 straight SCC games, won games by an average of 36 points per game and captured their third conference crown. This was their first victory by less than double digits this season.
“It’s always been a great league,” said Mercy coach Tim Kohs. “Even though I don’t think (the SCC) is as strong as its been in the past, to win two of these in a row is quite an accomplishment.”
Meanwhile, Hand falls to 20-3 as it heads into the Class L tournament as the No. 5 seed. This Hand team was the first to advance to the SCC title game. Hand also won the SCC Hammonasset Division.
“If they were my own kids graduating from medical school I couldn’t be any more proud,” Hand coach Tim Tredwell said. “They’re crushed right now. They’re so upset, they knew they were right there.”
Hand kept itself in the game thanks to a team-high 12 points from Cori Ouelette and 10 points from Gabby Martin. Hand even led at the half, 28-27.
“We just came out and said, ‘It has to stop now,’ ” Fitzpatrick said. “We had to limit their shooters, box out, get rebounds and when it comes down to it, play smart.”
Mercy came out strong in the second half, taking the lead back at 32-28. Mercy controlled the glass outrebounding Hand 40-27. Still, Mercy could only manage a 44-41 lead going into the fourth quarter.
“That was the moment I was most proud of my team,” Tredwell said. “The first time we played them, Mercy went on a run right away. We kind of kept it close in the fourth quarter and all of a sudden they jumped out to a 17-point lead and we couldn’t recover.”
Hand recovered, kept pace with Mercy and had a chance to send the game into overtime. With 5.2 seconds left and Mercy up three, with the ball and inbounding the ball from under its own basket, Fitzpatrick caught the pass at half court and fell. Traveling was called and Hand got the ball with three seconds left.
Martin received the inbounds pass and fired it up the court, but Destine Perry intercepted it for Mercy, was fouled and calmly sank two free throws the ice the game.
MERCY 57, HAND 52
Hand 11 17 13 11 – 52
Mercy 11 16 17 13 – 57
Cassidy Wygonik 1 0-1 2, Lauren Brandau 3 0-0 6, Gabby Martin 4 2-3 10, Cori Ouellete 4 0-1 12, Paula Materin 2 5-6 9, Gege Catalano 3 3-3 9, Olivia Jackson 1 2-2 4. Totals: 18 12-16 52
Haley Vanty 4 3-4 11, Sarah Gallo 5 0-0 10, Destine Perry 1 3-6 5, Kendra Landy 0 3-4 3, Maura Fitzpatrick 6 5-10 19, Isabelle Santoro 1 0-0 2, Samantha Gallo 1 3-3 5, Meghan DeVille 1 0-0 2. Totals: 19 17-27 57
3-point goals: Hand 4 (Ouellete 4); Mercy 2 (Fitzpatrick 2); Records: Hand 20-3; Mercy 22-1
Updates every minute – View full tournament