FARMINGTON HILLS >> Opening night was more than alright for Farmington Hills Mercy Thursday, as the Marlins quickly shook off the rust to collect an impressive 64-26 victory over Waterford Kettering.
Displaying a balanced offense and its patented brand of pressure defense, Mercy climbed out to a 14-0 advantage early and never looked back.
“It was our first game and (Kettering) had played the other night, so I always think that’s a little bit of an advantage, but we had scouted them,” Marlins coach Gary Morris said. “We’re optimistic about this group. They’re working hard and I feel we’re going to be pretty deep and pretty athletic. I think we have some shooters, which always helps of course.”
Two years ago, an infusion of freshmen talent helped brighten Mercy’s future prospects. With that quartet of Alexis Roberts, Julia Bishop, Ellie Tisko, and Jill Smith now forming the core of the Marlins’ team as juniors, the hope is that their continuity and a new trio of freshmen will lead to greater success.
The Marlins received 24 combined points from three freshmen making their varsity debuts Thursday, led by 6-foot forward Maya White, who collected four points and a steal just moments into the game.
“Right away, she scored,” Morris said of White. “She’s a really hard worker and really coachable. She’s still a little bit raw, but there’s a lot of upside there. I thought our other two freshmen did a nice job too. (Fran) DeNardo came in an hit a couple shots. (Lauren) Smiley came in and was nervous at first, but then played better. It was good to see all of them.
“We kept the freshmen because we felt they would play.”
Mercy hit seven 3-pointers overall and built a 37-15 lead by halftime.
Kettering struggled at times to transition into its half court offense as Mercy applied ample pressure defensively.
“You hope to get points off of your defense, but when you play certain teams and you’re not going to turn them over, you need to score on offense in your half court. I was happy with that (tonight),” Morris said.
An 11-2 scoring run by the Marlins to begin the second half put the game out of reach.
Junior Alexis Butler finished with a team-high 15 points, including three 3-pointers, for Mercy, while DeNardo added 10 points and Roberts chipped in with nine.
Kettering was led offensively by Izzy Dugal and Irelyn Schoof. The Captains dropped to 0-2 in their first season under coach Darrin McAllister.
Up next, Mercy (1-0) be back in action Sunday at Calihan Hall in Detroit against Grosse Pointe South. Kettering will be on the road Tuesday at Walled Lake Central to begin its Lakes Valley Conference slate of games.