Taylor Jones of Farmington Hills Mercy celebrates her winning play behind a despondent Sydney Jascoe of Birmingham Marian. (Jose Juarez / Special to The Detroit News)
Detroit — Taylor Jones made a play that will go down as one of the greatest in Catholic League championship game history, lifting Farmington Hills Mercy to a 55-54 victory over Birmingham Marian Sunday afternoon at Calihan Hall.
Marian, leading 54-53 with 4.2 seconds left, attempted to inbound the ball when Jones deflected the pass, picked it up and made a layup as time expired for the wild finish.
It was only fitting that the championship was decided in the final seconds. The teams split the regular-season series with Marian winning 57-54 in overtime and Mercy earning a 40-38 victory in the rematch.
“My goal was just to block the inbounder,” said Jones who finished with eight points. “I’m lengthy so he (coach Gary Morris) just told me to stay on the ball and that’s what I did and we got the turnover. I was very surprised (when I deflected it). Then, it was ‘Just score!’ It’s amazing.”
It was Mercy’s first Catholic League title since 2011. Marian entered as the defending champion.
Marian (17-2) led by as many as 11 (36-25) with three minutes left in the third quarter. At the time, Marian had limited Mercy to 25 percent shooting (6-of-24).
Still, Marian was in foul trouble with Kara Holinski and Jaeda Robinson with four fouls. Teammates Samantha Thomas and Laura Bruton each picked up their fourth foul midway through the fourth.
Mercy (18-1) battled back at the free throw line, making 25 of 32, including 12 of 16 during the fourth quarter.
Senior guard Candice Leatherwood led Mercy with 18 points, making 8 of 10 free throws in the final quarter. She also started the comeback with a three-point play to cut the deficit to 36-28 late in the third.
All Leatherwood could talk about was Jones’ winning play.
“Taylor is a great on-ball defender,” Leatherwood said. “She has long arms and always gets deflections like that. She came up big. Coach said if we get a steal, attack the basket, and that’s exactly what she did.”
Marian coach Mary Cicerone took the blame, saying she shouldn’t have had guard Bailey Thomas foul Leatherwood with 4.2 seconds left and a three-point lead. She also wouldn’t have sent Sydney Jascoe to inbound the ball.
“It’s totally my fault,” Cicerone said. “I should have never put Sydney in that position. She hasn’t been playing much, but we were in some serious foul trouble. We wanted to throw it the length of floor. She’s my best thrower, but she didn’t back up far enough and Jones timed it just right.
“And, I should have went with my gut and not fouled so quick. Girls can’t dribble the length of the floor with someone in their face and hit that very often. If anything I should have waited a little longer (before fouling). This one’s on me. I take total blame.”
Junior Brittany Gray scored 13 points, Holinski had 12 and Robinson 10 for Marian, which made 17 of 25 free throws but failed to close out the win, missing one with 5.5 seconds left and a three-point lead.
Madison Heights Bishop Foley 27, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 26: Renee Fischer scored a layup with 1.5 seconds left to lift Bishop Foley to the C-D Division championship, its first Catholic League title since 1998.
Senior point guard Kristin Doxen scored 10 to help Bishop Foley (11-7) avenge two earlier losses to Everest Collegiate. She penetrated and found Fischer for the winning play.
Everest Collegiate used a full-court press to turn a 24-21 deficit into a 26-25 lead with 9.6 seconds left, including three free throws by Lucia Westrick (10 points).
However, Everest Collegiate opted to pick up Bishop Foley at halfcourt in the final seconds, which gave Doxen the chance to find Fischer.