Mercy uses suffocating defense to end Western's magical season, grab regional crown WITH PHOTO GALLERY

Author: 
Matthew Mowery

FARMINGTON HILLS >> It’s a trap, but it’s all too easy to fall into — and team after team does it.

Farmington Hills Mercy is a stout defensive team, no matter what style it’s playing, but the half-court trap has been the defense that has propelled the Marlins to the Class A quarterfinals, helping them completely stifle Walled Lake Western, 35-14, in Thursday’s regional finals.

No. 10 Hartland couldn’t figure it out in the regional semis, nor could Western — which scored just four second-half points, and was outscored 20-4 from mid-second quarter on.

“I’m going to give them the credit they deserve: That was probably the best defensive effort that we’ve had put against us all year. They did the things we like to pride ourselves on here. They played defense,” said Western coach Skip Stevenson.

“They played great defense, and the credit goes to them. They won the game. They deserve this region, there’s no doubt about it. They’re a true regional champ. … Give them credit. They’re doggone good.”

The Marlins (22-3) advance to the quarterfinals at Southfield on Tuesday, where they’ll face defending Class A champion Warren Cousino.

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“I’m really happy for this group. They’ve been a hard-working group, and I’m really happy to get a win in the regional finals,” Mercy coach Gary Morris said.

Mercy showed that hard work on the offensive glass and the defensive end, beating the Warriors at their own game: Ball possession.

Early on, the Marlins got offensive rebound after offensive rebound, extending possessions, and grinding clock, leading 5-4 after the first quarter. It was 15-10 midway through the second quarter, when they decided to go to the half-court trap.

Once they flipped that switch, turning it on, it was all but over.

“We started the game picking them up full court, and it wasn’t really working, so we decided to go to the half-court trap, and I think it just really frustrated them, and it built momentum for us, led to easy baskets, we started hitting shots, penetrating gaps. I think our defense really carried us,” said senior Jackie Bauer, admitting that was one of the best defensive efforts she’s ever been a part of.

“That was definitely one of them. I mean, they only scored 10 points in the first half, four in the second half, and

“I think it says a lot about our defense: I think our defense really carried us in that game.”

The trap provided the Marlins the turnovers they needed to get run-outs, and they turned those turnovers into the first eight points of the second half, ballooning the lead to 20 points — 30-10 — with a 15-0 run. Kailee Ford ended the Warriors’ drought with a runner with 3:54 in the third quarter, but the damage had been done.

“Same thing that gave Hartland fits. We looked at it. We thought we were going to be OK. I wanted to attack it head-on, just because. We rolled the dice with it. We looked OK at times, but what’s worse is we didn’t hit shots. They weren’t great shots, but we just needed to hit a couple of them,” Stevenson said.

“We were down by one at the end of the quarter, and down by 10 at the half, because we didn’t even shoot well. But we were still in it at halftime — but when they came out and scored the first six, seven, eight points, and separated, it was all over.”

Why does it work? It’s not a surprise, not anymore.

“I think we execute it pretty well. I think other teams prepare for it, because at this point, there’s no secrets,” Morris said. “But fortunately, it’s been effective for us — it certainly was effective in the regional.”

For the Warriors, it was a season that saw them do things they hadn’t done in decades, winning the first district title since 1988, and the first regional contest since 1983.

“Great group of kids, haven’t been on this platform before — heck, I haven’t been on this platform before. What are we talking about? I’m some assistant and a JV coach, but no head coach. Hey, they took us on a great ride, and it was enjoyable. It was enjoyable,” Stevenson said.

“Yes it’s a disappointing ending. Would I like a different result? Absolutely. I’m not looking at that. I told you guys that on Tuesday, it’s the whole body of work. I wouldn’t trade it — 20 wins, won the (KLAA) North, won a district, and went to the regional finals. I can leave here tonight being very content.”

Last Updated: 3/9/2017 10:41:49 PM EST