Source: Hometown Life
Author: Marty Budner
There's no doubting the court success Farmington Mercy has enjoyed under veteran head coach Gary Morris.
Mercy has registered 12 consecutive winning basketball seasons. The Marlins have won six district titles, including four straight, since 2009. They've been to the regional championship game six times during that span, making a trip to the state semifinal in 2014. Mercy owns three Catholic League crowns since 2011.
Morris, in his 13th season at Mercy, believes the Marlins are fully capable of sustaining that success as the 2016-17 campaign gets underway.
"We've been on a pretty nice run the past few years," said Morris, whose only losing season at Mercy was his first season as head coach in 2004. "Our best team was the team which lost to Marian in the state semis and lost to Marian. We've won four districts in a row and have been to a few regional finals over the past few years. And, I think this team can continue that.
"I'm very pleased with everything I've seen so far after 15 practices and two scrimmages in terms of the work ethic of this group and the fact that they are very competitive. As a result, we've had very good practices and had three good scrimmages against Canton, Northville and Hartland which was good for us. I'm happy with where we're at and anxious to see where we are at once we start playing games.
Experienced returning group
The Marlins return this season with a strong core of returning players, including senior captains Jackie Bauer and Katie Coe and junior captain Jenna Schluter. The other starters figure to be senior Chloe Godbold and improved junior Bella Dugas.
Veteran head coach Gary Morris has led Mercy to 12 consecutive winning seasons. (Photo: File photo)
The team's strength lies in the veteran guard trio of Bauer, Goldbold and Schluter.
Bauer, a three-year varsity player, averaged 10 points and two rebounds per game last year in helping the Marlins to a 17-7 overall record. The 5-foot-6 All-Catholic shooter has the ability to score from both the perimeter or driving to the hoop which makes her a tough player to defend.
"Jackie is a very, very competitive player who wills her way to do things," said Morris. "She is not blessed with a lot of athleticism, but has a lot of want-to. She's a good shooter all-around, definitely one of our best shooters."
Schluter, who is fully healthy this year after suffering an ACL injury as a freshman, and Godbold, who started to come into her own about halfway through last season, both averaged 4.5 points last year. Godbold has good quickness and has improved as a shooter and a defender. Schluter, who also averaged two assists and three rebounds, is good in all phases of the game as she can defend, pass, rebound and score.
The key to Mercy's season will be how fast Morris can develop team depth.
Senior forwards Claire Murray, who is currently sidelined with a foot injury, and Morgan Brietzke both played key minutes last year and are expected to provide strong reserve play. The Marlins should also get some help from junior forwards Becca Heaman and Lexi Thomas who played played JV last year and are new to the varsity.
Freshman newcomer Jess Mruzik, a 6-foot volleyball player, shows a lot of promise and could surprise foes with her scoring, rebounding and interior defensive play. Coe, in her second year, is an undersized All-League post player "who plays bigger than her height."
"We don't have a lot of size, again, which always seems to be the case with us," said Morris.
Additional Central foes
Morris hopes the team chemistry forms soon as the defending Catholic League champion Marlins open Central Division play earlier this year because two new members have been added to the schedule.
Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard and Macomb Lutheran North are the additional teams which this year join Bloomfield Hills Marian, Warren Regina, Livonia Ladywood, Dearborn Divine Child and Mercy to form the Central Division. Marian is favored by many to win the regular-season title.
"We're going to look first at being competitive in the Central Division," Morris said. "Marian is projected to be the strongest team, but I think we can be competitive. Our schedule is different with those two new teams and as a result we'll get into division play faster than we typically do."
Mercy plays Saturday in the first Catholic League Match Challenge against 2016 Macomb Area Conference division winners at Calihan Hall on the Detroit Mercy campus. The Marlins will play 5:30 p.m. Saturday against Port Huron Northern followed by Marian against defending Class A state champion Warren Cousino.
Northern, which returns most of its lineup, defeated Cousino twice last year and should provide Mercy with a big challenge. It marks the first ever meeting between the teams.
"Northern is a very good team. It's always been my thing to play quality non-league opponents," said Morris. "I don't worry about trying to go 20-0. We just want to play teams who will get us ready to play Central Division battles and help us to get ready for the state tournament.
"It will be nice," he said. "We always like to play at Calihan and it will be a good experience for the kids."