Mercy High vs. Maryvale Prep continues long-standing basketball tradition
BALTIMORE -- A nearly 60-year-old tradition continues this weekend.
Mercy High School faces Maryvale Preparatory School for the classic at Towson University's SECU Arena Friday night.
It's the only girls' athletic event of this scale in Maryland, and the opportunity is not lost on either team.
"If you're a girl's basketball player, this is something that you want to play in because not too many people get that opportunity," Mercy's head coach George Panageotou said.
It's the day before the classic and both Mercy and Maryvale basketball teams are ready for the highly anticipated rematch.
"Our girls are working hard six days a week, some of them come in early, like this morning, to shoot before school and then we'll have practice tonight," Maryvale's coach Alex Miller said. "These girls put a tremendous amount of time and effort into it, and we want to display that for all the family and friends that are going to come and watch us tomorrow night."
It is the biggest crowd these teams have ever played in front of, but players on both sides say the key is managing the pressure.
"It's definitely a little nerve-wracking," Mercy senior guard Olivia Liszt said. "You see all your fans and then you just know you have your team behind your back."
"There's going to be a lot of people there to support us but we're here to play a game and we want to win, so we're going to do what's necessary to do so," Maryvale senior guard Amari Moore said.
Mercy won the classic last year.
Guard Milan Brown, a freshman at the time, was named MVP of the game.
"It's just a feeling like no other," Brown said.
Mercy has since moved up to the A conference and held their own this season.
Coach Panageotou said they have been focusing on defense and speed in practice, along with mental toughness.
Maryvale has had to overcome some challenges this season.
An ACL tear kept their starting point guard Emily Knapp on the bench.
But Coach Miller said they are staying laser-focused on their strengths.
"At the end of the day, its take care of what we do which is work really hard on defense, rebound the basketball and find easy ways to score," Miller said.
"You just want to be able to walk off the court at the end of the game and say I fought my hardest," Knapp said.
Tip off is 7:30 p.m. Friday, January 28 at Towson's SECU Arena. Doors open at 6 p.m.
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