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Mount Mercy Double OT Win Over Springville Worthy of Cause

by cnewman

Mount Mercy and Springville pose in their camouflage uniforms made especially for the second annual Wounded Warrior Project game played Saturday at the private school in South Buffalo. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes.
Mount Mercy and Springville pose in their camouflage uniforms made especially for the second annual Wounded Warrior Project game played Saturday at the private school in South Buffalo. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes.

John Glose joked that he kind of felt bad about charging a $5 admission to Saturday's (Jan. 26) basketball games at Mount Mercy — the spike in price a result of proceeds going to the Wounded Warrior Project.

But after four quarters and two overtimes, his Mount Mercy squad and the Springville girls gave a performance in the varsity game worthy of that entry fee to attend. As it turned out, the game itself was certainly worthy of the cause it represented.

Trailing virtually the entire game until the final minutes of regulation, Mount Mercy squeaked out a 54-52 double overtime win over Springville at the second annual Wounded Warrior Project fundraiser event in a packed gym at the all-girls private school in South Buffalo. Both teams donned camouflage jerseys for the game.

"It all went to a good cause and [the spectators] got their money's worth so it worked out perfectly," Glose said afterward, as he helped usher in former players from the school for the inaugural Mount Mercy alumni game.

"These girls never quit and never give up and that's been our rallying call all year," he added, as Mt. Mercy improved to 10-5. "We just have to outwork teams and stick together and it worked out again today."

Springville raced out to an early advantage and led by six both at the half and at the end of three quarters, before the Magic made its fourth quarter run to tie the game at 44 apiece to end regulation. The Griffins also led by one with nine seconds left in the first overtime and opened up a four-point lead in the second extra session but could not close out a win.

"It was fun — a good game for the event we were having today," said Springville head coach Christopher Mathewson, whose team fell to 7-6. "[Mt. Mercy] is a talented team. I was happy with our effort; I just wish we could have kept better track of a couple of their girls in the fourth quarter, and it may have been a different outcome."

Olivia Balys scored what amounted to the winning bucket in the second overtime, driving in the lane and hitting a layup with 34 seconds left, to put Mt. Mercy up 53-51. Each team added a free throw in the final 10 seconds.

"I really try to earn all of the playing time I can get and work hard for the team," said the admittedly worn-down sophomore, who scored 8 points. "I told myself at the end, 'I'm going to have the winning basket' and that's what happened."

Emily Sheehan scored five straight Mercy points, including converting on a 3-point play, to give her team a 42-41 lead with just over two minutes to play in regulation. The junior guard added 4 of her team-leading 16 points in the two overtimes.

"Springville's a great team and very well-coached with some great athletes and they pressed us all game long. I put the ball in Emily's hands every time and she did a great job handling the press and also did well scoring for us," Glose said.

Tia Woodarek, who led Springville with 17 points, looked as if she would take over the game in the second overtime, as she scored the first four points, to put her team up 51-47. Mathewson noted that the senior forward, who's been playing on a bad knee, is a "heck of a competitor."

But Mt. Mercy's Courtney Kaczor, who finished with 8 points, hit her second 3-pointer of the game and Balys added a free throw to tie the contest with just over a minute left in the second overtime.

In the first overtime, Springville's Jenna Schunke took advantage of her playing time — with a few players already having fouled out, as the junior knocked down a 3-pointer to put her team up, 47-46, with nine seconds remaining.

"We got in foul trouble so some of the girls were playing in crutch time that usually aren't in that situation," Mathewson said. "[Jenna] had never been in that position before and she came through — good for her, even in the loss."

Sheehan took the ensuing in-bounds pass, started driving hard up the court and was fouled. She nailed 1 of 2 free throws to send the game into yet another overtime.

Mount Mercy had taken its largest lead of the game, at 44-41, but Springville's Erin Kwiatkowski hit a clutch 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to force the extra time. Kwiatkowski finished with 12 points.

Also among game highlights, Heaven Rollek scored 7 points and Tainne Dallas added 5 for Springville, while Kerry McGough scored all 5 of her points in the second half and Allison Balys also had 5 in the win.

"The Wounded Warrior Project is an important organization and this game is important to our school, so we knew we had to win but it would be a tough one," Olivia Balys said. "In the first and second quarters, it was a little shaky, but in the second half, we always seem to come back. We gave everyone an exciting game."

The game not only pitted two quality opponents against one another, but also a pair of teams with much in common. Mathewson sent all three of his daughters to Mt. Mercy and his assistant Bob Gainey once coached the Magic. Also, Glose coaches some Springville players over the summer in AAU.

"I heard about this event last year and we were happy to be invited this year," Mathewson said. "I'm proud that John selected us. It was a nice close game; wish we could have won, but certainly it was a great experience."

The three-game event's main sponsor, Metro Group Inc., was represented by organizer Matt Ondesko, the newspaper group's managing editor. He said the event raised about $2,500.

"I think it was a great day and you couldn't have asked for a better varsity game," Ondesko said. "To have two schools like Mount Mercy and Springville come together for this wonderful cause says a lot about how much we value our military personnel. Knowing this money is going to the men and women who have served our great nation just makes it better."

The varsity game was sandwiched in between the junior varsity game and a Mount Mercy alumni contest, which included the likes of University at Buffalo great Heather Turner, who led the Magic to a number of league championships in the mid-2000s.

"A lot of our girls look up to the alumni and the alumni was watching us late in that game," Glose noted. "They wanted to win for them and carry on the tradition that the girls who were watching started."

Springville earned a split during the day, as the JV team held on for a 41-39 win. Brittany Luther scored a game-high 18 points and Emma Beckerich added 10 in the win. Mt. Mercy was led by 14 points from Mallory Ashe.  

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