Our Lady of Mercy added to their already impressive season with a road sweep of Landmark Christian Friday night. With the pair of victories, the two Bobcat basketball squads sit at a combined 24-5.
The Lady Bobcats shook off an especially strong push from Landmark in the first half, grabbing the lead early in the second half and pulling away for a 59-50 win.
“We kept our poise, and we kept plugging away,” said Lady Bobcats coach Doug Crane. “It wasn’t always pretty, but our kids did a great job.”
Morgan Jones powered the offense early for the Bobcats with her ability to get to the hoop. The War Eagles responded with an onslaught of 3-pointers, hitting six in the first half. Paige Aronhalt hit first as Landmark grabbed their first lead at 10-8. Aronhalt and Joy Stucker each hit a pair of threes, and Jillian Price and Lauren Colston each had one 3-pointer as Landmark led by as much as eight points.
Mercy sliced into the deficit late in the half. Eboni Winston hit a runner, and Jones wowed with a coast-to-coast layup to pull within six. Chi Chi Ekwuocha heated up with the last five points, sinking two free throws and adding a three-point play to pull back within 28-27 at halftime.
“You have to give Landmark a lot of credit. They shot well, so we had to change a few things defensively,” said Crane.
Hembree Monk started off Landmark’s scoring before the Bobcats surged in front. Chi Chi posted eight of her career-high 21 points in the third quarter as Mercy turned a deficit into a seven-point lead heading into the final frame.
“Chi Chi really stepped up for us and had a big game,” praised Crane. “We felt like we could get her more involved offensively.”
Leah Harrison’s three-point play got the War Eagles within six points early in the fourth, but it was as close as they would get down the stretch. Eboni Winston scored five of her 12 points early in the fourth to help pad the lead. Jones helped put the game out of reach with another coast-to-coast bucket and a three-point play, and Chi Chi added a ferocious block to seal the 59-50 win.
“Eboni did a great job of making some passes and getting Chi Chi involved, and Morgan did a great job penetrating and making some big passes,” said Crane. “It was a great game overall for our team.”
The boys game had a much different complexion than last year’s 100-91 Landmark win, but it was a treat of its own for the packed house, Mercy winning 80-68.
“I told the kids before the game, when you get old and fat like I am, these are the ones you remember,” joked Mercy coach Tony Caruso. “They’ve had the better of us for about five years now. It’s been a dry run. Anytime you knock off a rival, it’s a good night.”
The first quarter was filled with the long ball as Cedric Labat sank two and Charlie Feldner added one 3-pointer. For Landmark, Micah McAllister dropped a pair of treys, and Collier Schultz hit one of his own. Nathan Burdette’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer staked Landmark to an 18-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Lead swings were the story early in the second quarter as a Feldner three and a Labat three-point play put Mercy ahead one. Landmark stepped back in front on a Burdette bomb, then it was Anthony Caruso’s three taking it for Mercy before McAllister hit again from deep for the War Eagles.
“It’s been a great rivalry, and it’s great competing against them,” Caruso praised Landmark. “Coach (Chip) McAllister does an amazing job here. I have all the respect for him and what they do. Landmark is lucky they’ve got him.”
Labat ended the lead swings for good with a bucket for a 25-24 lead they would never again relinquish. Caruso and Aaron Urshery each hit from deep, and George Haynes and Robert Chery chipped in baskets as the Bobcats scored 29 in the second quarter en route to a 43-34 halftime lead.
“We had one little spurt and pushed the lead. I thought that was critical,” said Caruso. “I was real proud of how, everytime Landmark made a run, we were able to answer. It was a grind, definitely.”
Landmark still pushed Mercy in the second half. Zack Allen was able to get to the hoop nearly at will, and Collier Schultz kept hitting from the outside. Anytime they tried to pull close, Mercy held them off, including a Josh Hurst bomb and a Caruso kick out to Labat for three to build up a 58-48 lead after three quarters.
Caruso kept the heat up at the start of the fourth with a no-look pass to Haynes for two. Feldner made big plays on both ends of the court in the fourth, sinking a pair of 3-pointers and drawing a key charge, as the Bobcats simply refused to let the War Eagles come back, wrapping up an 80-68 victory.
Cedric Labat led the way with 22 points. George Haynes added 21 points, including 7-of-10 on free throws in the fourth quarter, with seven rebounds. Charlie Feldner was next up with 15 points, all on his 5-of-5 shooting on 3-pointers, with seven rebounds. Anthony Carruso added 10 points and six assists.
“It’s been a team effort all year. That’s been the thing that’s so fun with this group. It’s a team, and it’s a family,” said Caruso. “They really come together, and they believe in it. They’ve bought into it. It’s everybody for everybody.”