Author: Dan O'Meara / John Stormzand
Like Forrest Gump's famous statement about a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get (or see) when you go to a basketball game.
One that had the potential to be a good, competitive contest Wednesday was not as Farmington Hills Mercy easily defeated visiting Croswell-Lexington, 57-35.
Both teams are 13-3 overall. The Marlins were in control of the scoreboard, if not always the action on the floor, after rolling out to a 21-5 lead.
"In the first quarter against their man, we were very effective," Mercy coach Gary Morris said. "Then they made some adjustments defensively. They did create some problems for us with their aggressiveness on defense.
"There were too many situations we threw the ball into their hands. That's an area we need to address. We can't be turning the ball over."
For the last three quarters, Mercy had one more turnover than did Cros-Lex, 22-21. In their defense, the Marlins were substituting frequently from the early second quarter on.
"I thought we started off pretty well," Morris said. "Then we would have stretches where we played well and stretches where we struggled with our decision making.
"What hurt us was a lack of pass fakes. We pretty much threw it where we were looking instead of trying to get them to move and then make the pass."
Despite getting down early, the Pioneers, who lead the Bluewater Area Conference with a 9-1 record, were a scrappy team and played hard the entire game.
"At the beginning, there was a little apprehension maybe," Cros-Lex coach Darren Bongard said. "What we did in the second half and the start of the game was like night and day. We turned it over three or four times, and you can't do that against a great team."
The Pioneers also missed a lot of shots around the basket and free throws. Trailing 29-14 late in the first half, they missed five foul shots in a row, including the front end of two one-and-ones.
If Cros-Lex had made more of those shots, it probably would not have been enough to beat the Marlins, but it would have made it a closer game.
Of course, Mercy's aggressive, reaching defense had something to do with some of the missed field goals, too.
"Maybe we were a little excited to play these guys, and I think, if we would have settled down and taken our time, those are shots we normally make," Bongard said.
"Free throws killed us in both halves. I thought we made a run in the second half and, had we made a couple easy shots, it does change the game."
Mercy senior Taylor Jones scored a game-high 19 points and didn't play in the fourth quarter. The Marlins are certainly a different team with her on the floor.
"She's good on the press," Morris said. "That seems to be our way. We get a few stretches where we get some turnovers, and that leads to some quick, easy points."
The Marlins pressed full court in the third quarter and expanded a 38-18 halftime lead to 47-21. Jones had 10 points in that period. It was 49-26 at the end of three.
Senior Sierra Wangler tossed in nine points; senior Zora Pullen and junior Lauryn Hauncher added six apiece.
Sophomore Claire Knapp led the Pioneers with 10 points; senior Megan Guitar scored eight and junior Desiree Lerma seven.
Wangler's stats included four steals, five rebounds and four assists. Jones had six steals and six assists. Senior Jordan Johnson and Pullen had four rebounds apiece.
Bongard sought a game with Mercy to help the Pioneers get ready for the Class B state tournament. In six non-league games, they played five Class A schools.
"We do it so we can, hopefully, make a run," Bongard said. "We get into the regional and run into Flint Powers or Goodrich, and we struggle because of the speed, the size and the strength.
"Playing a game like this just helps us. Whether we win or lose, it helps us to get better."
It also helped the Marlins, who will play Pontiac Notre Dame Prep in a Catholic League quarterfinal game at 4 p.m. Saturday at Riverview Gabriel Richard. Otherwise, they would have gone eight days without a game.
"It was a team that battled hard," Morris said. "Any time you play a team that does that, I think you can benefit from it.
"I think you can learn something about your team. There were areas I thought we did things well and areas they showed us we need to improve.
"But kudos to them for coming 80 some miles to play this game, to better prepare their team for the state tournament."