Our Lady of Mercy continued a promising start to the basketball season with a split against the powerful Southwest Atlanta Christian Warriors Friday night. The Lady Bobcats claimed perhaps their first-ever win over SACA, 48-46, while the boys staged an impressive comeback before running out of gas in a 70-61 loss. Through the early weeks of the season, the Bobcat boys are ranked eighth in Class A, and the girls are ranked ninth.
“This is a real big win,” said Lady Bobcats coach Doug Crane, whose squad had not beaten SACA in at least the last eight years. “Our kids just played really smart and patient on offense. They hit some shots when we had to hit them, and we hit some big free throws down the stretch.”
The Lady Bobcats fell behind early before surging with 9 of the last 10 points in the first half, turning a four-point deficit into a four-point lead. Eboni Winston started the rally with a putback and added a dish to Anaris Haynes for two. Morgan Jones finished hot, sinking a three-pointer and wowing the crowd with a coast-to-coast layup to make it a 22-18 lead at halftime.
Winston started the second half with a trey. Ball movement kept the momentum going as Chi Chi Ekwuocha scored a pair of buckets on assists from Jones and Mendee Nabie. Jones capped off the quarter with a banked three-pointer and a block to send the Bobcats into the fourth ahead 33-26.
SACA was able to chip into the lead as they heated up from the outside, but Mercy kept pushing. Jones hit her own three, then Ekwuocha added a three-point play to stay ahead four.
“Chi Chi is banged up, but she made a great move there,” praised Crane. “That was a big play in the game for us.”
As SACA turned up the heat, Jones took over for the Bobcats. First came a gorgeous drive and layup splitting three defenders, then a clutch rebound. Five points from the free throw line from Jones were enough to preserve a 48-46 victory.
“I’m just real proud of them,” said Crane. “This team really plays well together, and they care about each other. I’m pretty excited about it.”
The Mercy boys simply dug themselves too big a deficit early on against a highly-ranked SACA squad. A massive comeback got them back in the game, and even in the lead at times, but they could not quite pull out the win. There was still plenty to like from the effort.
“Obviously, we would have liked to win, but battling back shows our guys we can play with anyone, and we can beat them if we don’t come out and dig ourselves a hole,” said Mercy coach Tony Caruso. “In the first quarter, I don’t think we were flat, I think we were maybe too hyped. We were real long on some shots. We didn’t look real comfortable shooting.”
A 25-8 first quarter deficit ballooned to as much as 22 points deep in the second quarter before the Bobcats came alive. Despite facing much taller competition, George Haynes was electric in the paint all night, including five straight points to help kickstart his team.
“He always comes in and brings a lot of energy,” praised Caruso. “He’s aggressive. He gets to the rim, and that’s what he did when we needed a couple baskets to stop the bleeding. That was big for us because, if not, it could have gotten out of hand.”
Anthony Caruso and Charlie Feldner each hit threes to trim the deficit to 41-24 at halftime.
The third quarter was all Bobcats as they outscored SACA 22-6. The energy they brought out of the locker rooms was palpable, bringing the crowd to their feet hitting big shot after big shot.
“At halftime, we challenged them,” said Caruso. “Even in the second quarter, I thought we played a little more intense from that point on.”
Josh Hurst got it started, slicing to the hoop for a layup. Caruso hit from deep, and both Feldner and Haynes got to the glass for putbacks. Feldner hit another three to cut the gap to four. Cedric Labat got to the rim for two, and Caruso sank another trey to give Mercy their first lead of the night at 42-41 and cap off an 18-0 run.
Haynes notched a pair of buckets, but SACA would lead 47-46 heading into the fourth quarter.
Mercy left everything they had out on the floor to get back into the game, and SACA was able to pull away in the fourth. Robert Chery’s putback would make it as close as it would get at 49-49. Another Labat layup kept it close, and an Aaron Urshery free throw made it a ten-point game with under a minute to play. Feldner and Caruso each hit from three down the stretch, but the Warriors held on for a 70-61 win.
“You take the victories that you get, but it would’ve been nice to come out on the right side of the scoreboard,” said Caruso.
It was a balanced night for the Bobcats as four players finished in double-digits. George Haynes led the way with 16 points, Anthony Caruso posted 13 points and 7 assists, and Charlie Feldner and Cedric Labat each scored 11. Robery Chery pulled down a school-record 16 rebounds.
“It’s been that way. It’s been different guys each game stepping up,” said Caruso. “We’ve had three games where we’ve had four or five guys score in double figures. When we’ve gotten down in a couple games, they’ve sparked us and helped us make a run.”
Our Lady of Mercy built on the momentum from Friday night, sweeping the Walker Wolverines Saturday afternoon. The Lady Bobcats won 40-27. holding the Wolverines to 5 points or less in three of four quarters.
The boys team won 68-51, pulling ahead with a dominant 20-11 first quarter and never easing up. Anthony Caruso led the way with 17 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds. Labat posted 17 points and 8 rebounds. Aaron Ushery added 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals, while Chery put up 9 rebounds and Josh Hurst tallied 4 steals.
To purchase photos from the SACA games, click here.