On Dec. 1, Mercersburg lost to St. Maria Goretti 58-44, but Wednesday was a different story as the Blue Storm turned the tables with a 51-43 victory for the Independent-Parochial Schools League championship.
Mercersburg had only four players dent the scoring column, but it was the support head coach Tim Crouch received for star Dre Wills that mattered.
Wills scored 15 points and hit only 5 of 16 from the floor, while others stepped up for the Blue Storm (9-14) in their final game of the year.
Mike Collins, a 6-foot-7 junior, led Mercersburg with 18 points and Patrick Ryan, a 6-6 senior, chimed in with 10. Even Reggie Fiumano’s eight points, all in the first half, were instrumental in gaining a 23-19 halftime lead.
“Collins played the best game of his life tonight,” said Blue Storm head coach Tim Crouch.
Collins had 12 points in the first half and two key buckets in the third quarter when Mercersburg wiped out a 31-25 Goretti lead with a 10-0 run on the way to a 37-34 lead after three periods.
Goretti (20-11) took a 39-37 lead at the outset of the final period on a goal by Ameka Akaya and conventional three-point play by Martin Geben.
But then, Wills stepped up big as the 6-1 fifth-year postgrad canned back-to-back 3-pointers for a 43-39 Blue Storm lead.
Not known as a 3-point shooter, his exploits were shocking to the Gaels.
“(Wills) isn’t normally a 3-point shooter but he had the guts to shoot those,” Crouch said.
After a missed shot and turnover by Goretti, Wills came back and drained a deuce for a 45-39 lead and Goretti never recovered.
Collins emphasized his performance with a slam dunk for a 47-40 lead, and it wasn’t until 23 seconds remained that Goretti got back on the board, nearly five minutes since having the lead.
“Every game we’ve lost this year you can point to turnovers,” said Goretti coach Amrit Rayfield. “It was the same thing with turnovers and lost leads. Seems like we can’t play well with a lead.”
Ryan helped close out the game hitting four free throws in the final seconds, getting the Blue Storm student body geared to charge the floor in celebration.
“We’ve lost so many close games this season, but Ryan and the others weren’t going to let that happen,” Crouch said.
Collins also had seven rebounds and Wills mixed it up inside with nine rebounds.
Goretti 6-9 junior Geben didn’t get many touches, hitting 4 of 6 from the floor and ending with a team-high 14 points. He also had eight rebounds.
Akaya and Tyrus Fleetwood each had 10 points for Goretti.
NOTE: It was the second year in a row Goretti hosted the IPSL final and has lost both times. A year ago, the Gaels lost to Saint James.
Mercersburg 51, Goretti 43
MERCERSBURG ACADEMY (9-14)
Fiumano 8, Collins 18, Wills 15, Ryan 10. Totals 18 10-13 51.
ST. MARIA GORETTI (20-11)
Fleetwood 10, Harris-Winn 5, Geben 14, Akaya 10, Stewart 4. Totals 16 10-14 43.
Mercersburg 12 11 14 14 — 51
Goretti 8 11 15 9 — 43
3-point goals—Mercersburg 5 (Wills 2, Ryan 2, Collins); Goretti 1 (Harris-Winn).