WALLINGFORD — Mercy spotted Sheehan a 15-0 lead and the Tigers still won the SCC Housatonic girls basketball contest comfortably, 57-39, on Wednesday night at the Sheehan gym.
Following the slow start for Mercy, the Tigers turned up the defensive pressure over the the final three quarters to pull away.
“We can be better. We aren’t super-talented. We miss easy shot after easy shot,” Mercy coach Tim Kohs said. “We played a very good game from a certain point in the first half on, but we can be better. I just want us to work on being more consistent.”
The loss dropped Sheehan to 4-2 overall and 0-2 in the Housy. The TItans were coming off of their first loss off the season, a 46-38 defeat at Guilford on Monday.
However, the Titans were without two starters that night: Darla Jagrosse and Liv Cassesse. Both were back on the floor against Mercy.
The Tigers improved to 4-2 and 3-0 and were led by Avery Kohs (14 points), Sophie Hedge (9), Ava Giansiracusa (9) and Kate Donlan (8).
“We have a bunch of kids that can put the ball in the basket," Coach Kohs said. “We seem to miss a lot of easy shots, but we’ve been pretty balanced this year.”
Sheehan started the game scorching with a 15-0 run. The Titans set the tone early on the boards with five shots on one possession that culminated wth a Madison DiPasquale bucket at the 6:35 mark of the first quarter for the first hoop of the game.
The possession drew the ire of Coach Kohs, who called a timeout and pulled all of his starters for the next five minutes.
Meanwhile, the Sheehan offense was clicking. The Titans were getting the ball inside to Jagrosse and she kicked it back out to shooters on the perimeter.
Sheehan sharpshooter Molly Smolenski (12 points) canned each of her first four 3-point attempts, including three in the first quarter.
“This couldn’t have started any better," Sheehan coach Mike Busillo said. “We tried some different things defensively and I thought it caught them a little off guard, and we hit some shots.
“The first 12 minutes of the game went pretty much according to script. What I told my kids is that Mercy is relentless and we have a lot of kids that never played this team. You just can’t take possessions off or make mistakes against them, and the game started getting away from us.”
Following the big Titan run to start the game, Mercy finished the half on a 26-13 run to close to within 28-26 at the break.
Mercy started the game 0-for-6 with six turnovers before Isabella Gonzalez scored the team’s first points on a layup with 1:12 left in the first quarter. Sheehan led 15-4 after the first quarter.
Mercy turned up the full-court pressure in the second quarter, forcing 11 Sheehan turnovers in the stanza.
Sheehan led 25-13 with 3:53 to go in the second quarter following a bucket by Jagrosse. Mercy then finished the half on a 13-3 run.
The denial pressure forced Sheehan turnovers on four straight possessions and the Tigers broke free in transition. Avery Kohs had three buckets in that run and Giansiracusa finished the half with a last-second bucket.
Donlan and Caelyn McMahon-Egan had second-quarter treys for Mercy. Jagrosse had six of Sheehan’s 13 second-quarter points.
Hedge, a junior guard, banked in a trey from in front of her own bench to give the Tigers their first lead of the game, 29-28 with 6:32 to go in the third quarter. It was the start of a big quarter for the Tigers, who outscored Sheehan 15-3 in the frame to take a 41-31 lead.
The Mercy defense forced eight Sheehan turnovers in the frame and the Titans shot 1-for-12 for the quarter. Had the Tigers not missed several layups, their lead would have been even bigger heading into the fourth quarter.
“Their pressure is relentless and they are one of the better pressing teams in the league, and they were running 10 kids out there,” Busillo said. “The game just got away from us.
“But we did a lot of things that we should be very happy about,” the Sheehan coach added. “We should just be emotionally attached to what the final score was. I thought we did a lot of good things in the first half.
To make matters worse for Sheehan, Jagrosse (6 points, 7 rebounds) was helped off the court with an ankle injury at the 5:02 mark of the third quarter and did not return.
“My guess is she’s going to be out for an extended period," Busillo said.
Reilly Hunter added eight points and Cassesse had seven for Sheehan.
“I thought Cassesse was great tonight after two weeks from COVID protocols,” Busillo said. “I thought she was terrific considering she’s just coming back. Molly hit some shots early on.”