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Farmington Hills

December 18, 2013

Entire Mercy roster back in the mix as teams takes aim at successful winter

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

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Mercy’s Taylor Jones drives to the bucket during a 59-46 victory against Flint Powers Catholic in the third game of the season.

Each season has had its own twist — its own flavor.

Yet, each season, in one way or another, has led to this.

It’s not often a team can end one year and, when the following begins, bring back everyone.

But when it comes to the 2013-14 Farmington Hills Mercy basketball team, an experienced roster is a blessing coach Gary Morris will cherish all winter.

“We didn’t lose anyone,” the Marlins’ coach said with a smile from a Dec. 11 practice at the school. “We have 13 girls on the team, 11 that were on the team last year and two that are new to the varsity. … The experience we have is huge, and it’s shown already.”

Of the Marlins’ seven seniors, there’s a combined 22 years of varsity experience.

“It’s kind of different, the fact we’ve all been together for so long,” senior and four-year varsity vet Candice Leatherwood said. “But we like it. We’ve gotten so used to one another on the court.”

“It’s a great group of friends, and I think that makes a difference on the court,” said senior Sam Bauer, also in her fourth year on varsity. “We’ve learned to rely on one another. We know how to communicate, and even when we criticize or get on each other, we understand why.”

The sample size is relatively small, but so far, so good.

Mercy was 3-0 at press time, beating Plymouth Salem 55-32 in the season opener, Canton High 37-33 two days later, and most recently beating a talented Flint Powers Catholic team 59-46 in the home opener.

“We came out like a veteran team in the first win,” Morris said. “In the second game, we had to play tough to beat a good Canton team, and against Powers, we had to hang on late in the game before pulling away. I think that’s where the experience pays off. These girls know how to win.”

But there’s another experience that is driving the team, or maybe motivating is the better term.

It was in last year’s Class A regional final, when a Mercy team with a 19-5 record fell to Detroit Martin Luther King 44-39 in double overtime.

“We had a great year, but it ended pretty rough,” Morris said.

“That game set a fire in us,” Bauer said. “We felt like it was one we gave away — one that, if we did just a little more, we should have won. It was a lesson learned, for sure.”

“We’ve thought about it every day; I mean, I think you have to,” Leatherwood said of the King loss. “Now, we want to get back to that point, and go beyond.”

Morris cautioned against an all-or-nothing mentality to determine success.

“Too many teams focus on nothing but a state title,” he said. “I think you have to enjoy the journey, get better as the season goes on and get a little lucky at times. If you do that, the rest will take care of itself.”

But the potential?

“There’s potential for a good, long run,” he added with a smile. “This is a confident group of girls, and they are excited about this season.”