Source: Hometown Life
Author: Dan O'Meara
Fortunately for Mercy coach Gary Morris and the varsity basketball team’s season outlook, the Marlins have nine returning players.
That high number will help them cope with a rash of injuries and put experienced players on the floor, though their depth won’t be the same.
The biggest loss was senior guard Zora Pullen (all-area third team), who was second in scoring and rebounding with nine points and five boards per game.
Pullen suffered an ACL injury last summer and will miss the season opener Tuesday at home against Flint Powers.
“We’re hopeful of getting her back at some point,” Morris said. “It certainly won’t be early in the season. We don’t know when that might happen.
“Zora has the ability to score, and she can score in a variety of ways. That injury definitely impacts our team.”
Mercy’s best incoming freshman and potential varsity player, Isabelle Miner, suffered the same injury as Pullen and will miss the entire season.
Sophomore Jenna Schluter, who was expected to be the starting point guard last season until she tore an ACL in late fall, is still not ready to play yet.
Furthermore, senior guard Katie Bryce, who started most of last season, was injured recently and sat out the team’s preseason scrimmage. She will return to active status before the others.
“We only had nine healthy bodies” for the scrimmage, Morris said. “I told the girls, “It’s an opportunity for you to show what you can do.’”
The Marlins do return healthy players in seniors Jordyn Schluter, Marisa Hardenbergh and Lauryn Hauncher and juniors Jackie Bauer, Chloe Godbold and Claire Murray. All are guards except Hauncher and Murray, both of whom are forwards.
Schluter, who averaged four points and two rebounds, and Bryce were starters; Bauer, Hauncher and Murray were part of the regular rotation.
Bryce, Bauer, Hauncher and Murray averaged two points apiece; Bauer, Bryce and Murray also had two rebounds per game.
“We’re certainly looking for those four kids (Bauer, Bryce, Murray and Schluter) to step up and do more for us,” Morris said. “(Hauncher) had significant minutes off the bench and will have an increased role this year.”
Mercy will miss the 21 points per game from all-stater Taylor Jones (Oakland University), as well as the defense and rebounding of Sierra Wangler, who was a second-team, all-area player.
The Marlins had hoped to spread the scoring around and compensate for the loss of Jones with better balance, but Pullen’s absence will make that harder to do in the near term.
“A year ago, we were looking at replacing that senior class from the year before,” Morris said of the Class A state semifinalist team in 2013-14.
“We were concerned where the scoring would come from. We said: ‘Who’s going to do it?’ People stepped up and, hopefully, that’s going to happen this year.
“It doesn’t look like anyone will average 21 points a game, but we think we have a number of people who are capable of scoring more than they did last year.”
He added Bauer can shoot from three-point range, and the 5-foot-10 Murray is capable of being a post-up player.
“I think we’re going through that process of identifying roles and figuring out who’s going to be able to do what,” Morris said.
“We had people who could either drive and score or kick to open shooters in recent years. I think we’re likely to be a team that tries to get the ball inside a little more.”
Junior Katie Coe, who was on the varsity for the state tournament, can help in the paint, too.
She, juniors Morgan Brietzke and Lauryn Boggs and sophomore Bella Dugas were on the JV team that went 15-4 and won the Catholic League Central Division.
With two-time defending state champion Marian having lost all five starters, the division race is as wide open as it has been in years.
“Marian, Divine Child and us were impacted by some significant losses,” Morris said. “Regina and Ladywood were not so impacted. As a result, I think it’s going to be, ‘You’d better come to play!’ At least, that’s how I view it.”
Mercy, which went 20-5 and was a regional runner-up to Marian, also will play Salem, Allen Park, Waterford Mott and Canton in preseason games.
“I think we’re going to be a competitive team,” Morris said. “If we get to a point where we have our full team, we’ll be that much better.
“Our kids have worked hard. We’ve established a winning tradition, and I think our kids are going to come out and perform well.”