Source: Hometown Life
Author: Dan O'Meara
Farmington Hills Mercy needed something good to happen in the second half Friday to regain the momentum in the Class A district championship game at West Bloomfield.
Senior Zora Pullen was the player who stepped up and did that, leading the Marlins to a 54-48 victory over Harrison in the girls basketball tournament.
With her team trailing 24-21 at halftime, Pullen scored 12 of her 14 points in the third quarter and almost single-handedly turned the game in Mercy’s favor.
“We just really wanted to win,” Pullen said. “We played well as a team. We passed the ball a lot. We started to slow it down, because they were starting to speed it up. And we played really good defense.”
Pullen made the first basket of the second half on a nice post-up move, and she followed that with a pair of early threes. She added another deuce and a pair of free throws.
“I just kept shooting,” she said. “I wanted to win. I wanted some points on the board. I just wanted the championship.”
Sophomore Chloe Godbold came off the bench to score 14 points for the Marlins, too, and helped in tight situations with her ball handling.
Her baby hook shot and then a putback at the buzzer accounted for the final four points of the third quarter and gave the Marlins a 42-37 lead.
“Zora made some big shots,” Mercy coach Gary Morris said. “You like to see a senior step up in that situation and she did.
“Chloe had another really good game. She gives us an element we don’t have a ton of, and that’s speed and quickness.”
Sophomore point guard Jenna Schluter was instrumental in beating the Harrison press with her passing. She was Mercy’s main scoring threat in the first half with nine of her 11 points.
The effort against the Harrison pressure was a team thing as the Marlins (16-6) did little dribbling and a lot passing down court to open teammates.
“They kind of throw the whole kitchen sink at you,” Morris said of the Hawks. “They’ll go full court, three quarters and half, so we talked about facing all of those.
“I thought we did a really good job in terms of handling their pressure. That was a key point for us as we were preparing for this game.”
Junior Jackie Bauer added nine points for the Marlins, who were 8-of-8 at the foul line in the fourth quarter – half of those by Bauer – and 14-of-20 overall.
Senior Kristen Nelson led the Hawks with 15 points. Junior Nyla Warren had nine of her 12 and senior Amber Stephens eight of her 11 in the first half.
Mercy’s defensive rebounding was a big factor in the second half as it held Harrison to one shot most of the time.
“We were disappointed at the half,” Morris said. “We didn’t think we played that well; we didn’t block out. I thought a lot of their baskets in the first half came from second shots.
“We addressed that. I think our kids agreed. We were three down at the half, and we’re capable of playing better than we did in that first half.”
For the Hawks (15-7), it was their lack of offensive rebounding in the second half that mattered most to coach Stefon Wilson.
“We didn’t block out and rebound,” he said. “If you let a team shoot until they make, they have a good chance of winning. You got to end it with a rebound.
“A lot of times we played good, solid defense. When the shot went up, we didn’t get the rebound. It was deflating. It was clear in our body language.
“We would hustle, hustle, hustle and get them to take a bad shot – and we didn’t get the rebound. It’s just a killer. You have to end it with a rebound, and we just didn’t.”
The teams traded baskets early in the first half until Harrison’s Teddi Pickens, who added six points, hit a three to give her team an 18-15 lead. Warren quickly scored off a rebound and a turnover to make it a six-point game.
In the fourth quarter, Godbold scored four points early to give Mercy a 46-39 lead. Harrison got as close as four points on four occasions. The outcome was in doubt until the final seconds when Schluter made the last two free throws.
“I’m proud of the girls,” said Wilson, who took the reins in late February. “This was a unique situation – a coach coming in with two or three games remaining in the season and getting ready for the state tournament.
“I just thanked them for giving me the opportunity to coach them. Our chemistry was good. I wish I would have had more time with them.”
Mercy will play Howell (20-2) at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the regional tournament at Novi. The Highlanders defeated Brighton in the Hartland district final, 43-16.
“It’s really special to be a senior and win your district,” said Pullen, who missed the month of December as she recovered from knee surgery. “A lot of teams don’t win it. Being a senior and coming back from an ACL, it means a lot to me.”
“I’m just really proud of this team,” Morris said. “Over the last couple years, we’ve lost a lot of good players to graduation. This team started kind of slowly. We were 2-3 in December; now we’re 16-6. We won our division and a district.
“I’m really proud of them and how far they’ve come. We didn’t like how we played at Calihan Hall (in the Catholic League final against Marian), so this makes up for it a little bit.”
Mercy was 8-of-18 from the floor in the third quarter and 18-of-44 overall for 41 percent. Harrison was 2-of-12 in the fourth and shot 36 percent (17-of-47). The Hawks were 9-of-10 at the line.