From 2013-2018, Mercy girls’ basketball asserted its dominance over the SCC, reaching the conference tournament final in each of those years and winning four of them.
Coming off a 9-13 season in which eight of its 10 players were freshman, Mercy looks to be back on the upswing with a 4-0 start to the season.
Mercy and its four starting sophomores alongside lone senior Lilly Hedge inched out Sacred Heart Academy 36-31 to hand the Sharks their first loss of the season.
Hedge was the only senior in the gym.
“I think Lilly Hedge is a tremendous player, our lone senior,” Mercy coach Tim Kohs said. “It doesn’t always show in the box score because she defends their best offensive player, she handles the ball and rebounds. When she scores more we are going to be really good.”
Mercy’s remaining four starters were sophomores Sophie Hedge, Avery Kohs, Ava Giansiracusa and Jasmine Mendez while sophomore Lauren Kohs was the first off the bench.
“The sophomores are all good, but on different nights,” Kohs said. “We haven’t gotten them all going at the same time.”
Sophie Hedge led the team in scoring with nine points, including two 3-pointers.
“We can struggle to put the ball in the basket so Sophie Hedge is very important for us,” Kohs said. “She is a kid that knows how to score, has that mentality, but she has to become more consistent.”
Though sophomores, it is the second year of regular playing time for most as the team looks to potentially pass its win total from a season ago with less games scheduled.
It wasn’t the prettiest of wins for Mercy which after taking a 3-0 lead would not lead again until the final minutes of the game.
“We are young,” Kohs said. “I thought the defense was solid throughout, if we hadn’t we could have been down 30 at the half. When I looked up there it felt like we had four points at half time.”
Mercy, which has allowed just 28.5 points per game, kept the game in range despite only totaling five points with three minutes remaining in the half.
In those final two minutes Mercy went on an 8-1 run to come within 16-14.
“It is a funny game, you make a shot and you feel like you’ll make another one,” Kohs said. “You miss one and you feel like you’ll miss 100.”
Mercy fell behind 23-14 after the start of third before bringing it back within one to end the third quarter trailing SHA 25-24.
With just 3:57 remaining in the game Mercy took its first lead since the opening shot of the game.
After trading shot for shot, it was the free throw shooting of the sophomore heavy roster that prevailed.
“We’re not great shakes, we are a solid team,” Kohs said. “We have been fortunate to play three times we gave it to early so it is hard to win a close game when you haven’t had one so. You have to make your free throws and I think we did a good job executing.”
The expectations have always been high for Mercy, and as this young core continues to develop, it would shock nobody to see this team at the top of the SCC for years to come.
“We have been a top-notch program for as long as I can remember,” said. “Last year we won just nine games but we played ten kids, eight of which were freshman. We beat some good teams but just not consistent enough.”
Sacred Heart Academy falls to 3-1, but the senior-less team is holding itself to an equally high standard.
“We have to get back into the gym on Sunday and continue to work to get better,” SHA coach Jason Kirck said. “It is a process, it isn’t an easy road to come up to Mercy. You come up here and feel their tradition, their coach is an awesome coach and they play really hard.”
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