Manchester pulled out a tough, grind-it-out 47-40 win Monday night over St. Vincent-St. Mary to remain undefeated for the season.
That’s not to say it wasn’t frustrating.
The Panthers (15-0) struggled mightily shooting from beyond the 3-point line, especially in the second half as shot after shot rimmed out. They finished the night hitting five of 28 3-pointers, and only one in the second half.
Call it frustration boiling over, but coach Tucker Pappas was surprised at the lack of celebration in the locker room.
“We win a game like that and they don’t say a word,” Pappas said. “They’re like, ‘We didn’t do anything.’ They still have that mentality. I had to tell them, ‘You played well enough to win here, and that’s not easy.’?”
From midway through the second quarter on, it was as if a lid was put on the Panthers’ basket. Still, the Fighting Irish couldn’t erase the deficit thanks to Manchester winning the rebound battle and taking advantage of second-chance opportunities.
St. Vincent-St. Mary (9-3) coach Joe Jakubick knows giving Manchester more chances to score is a recipe for disaster.
“We knew they’d hit some shots but especially in the first half, we didn’t do a very good job rebounding,” Jakubick said. “Against a quality team like that, you can’t make those mistakes because they’ll make you pay.”
The shooting from outside became so bad that Pappas, for the first time, broke a philosophical rule that he preaches to his girls.
“We don’t want to chuck up threes when we’re not hitting,” Pappas said. “I said, ‘Quit shooting the ball.’ I’ve never told a kid not to shoot the ball, ever. I don’t care who you are. They kind of freaked out when I said that but they understood.”
Guard Angela Durgala best epitomized the frustration felt by the team. Durgala opened with a handful of turnovers, a couple missed shots and committed three fouls in the first nine minutes.
“Yeah it was frustrating, but my coaches told me to relax,” Durgala said. “You just have to keep playing and hit the shots when they matter the most.”
Durgala came through when it mattered most, hitting the lone 3-pointer late in the third quarter to keep the Irish out of striking distance.
With under two minutes remaining and St. Vincent-St. Mary within three, Durgala drove to her right and hit a layup that ended up being the winning score.
Pappas had been screaming “Only uncontested layups” in an effort to run the clock. Durgala may have bent the rule just a bit.
“I asked her if that was uncontested and she said, ‘Yeah, they didn’t bother me,’ ” said a smiling Pappas, throwing up his hands. Durgala ended the night with 11 points.
Forward Michelle Noble was also instrumental down the stretch, hitting four free throws in the final 65 seconds to close out the game. Noble scored six points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Forward Autumn Brown scored nine points to go along with 12 rebounds and two blocks.
Sophomore Kiley May came through in the closing minutes for the Fighting Irish, almost winning the game on her own.
After a Manchester miss, May quickly caught a pass and drained a 3-pointer to bring St. Vincent-St. Mary within three, 40-37 with two minutes left. Just a minute later while down six, May drove to her right and made a short jumper despite being fouled. May scored a team-high 13 points and totaled six rebounds. Sophomore Shannon Jack was also instrumental for the Irish with a few drives to the lane and 15-foot jumpers. Jack ended the night with 10 points and seven rebounds.
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