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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Marian picks up victory over CHSL rival Mercy

Laura Bruton (32) of Birmingham Marian lays in two points as Farmington Hills Mercy’s Candice Leatherwood (21) follows the play during the third quarter of the game played on Tuesday Jan. 29, 2013 at Marian High School. The Mustangs beat the Marlins 56-45. (Special to the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)

Birmingham Marian’s Kilyn Bulluck (3) bulls her way to the basket as Farmington Hills Mercy’s Sierra LaGrande (10) gets an elbow to the neck during the third quarter of the game played on Tuesday Jan. 29, 2013 at Marian High School. Marian defeated Mercy 56-45. (Special to the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)

Birmingham Marian’s Kilyn Bulluck (3) puts up two of her 12 points as Farmington Hills Mercy’s Allie Gorcyca (in back) goes for the block during the first quarter of the game played on Tuesday Jan. 29, 2013 at Marian High School. Marian defeated Mercy 56-45. (Special to the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)

Birmingham Marian’s Brittany Gray (23) loses control of the ball as Farmington Hills Mercy’s Tyler Parlor (24) defends during the third quarter of the game played on Tuesday Jan. 29, 2013 at Marian High School. Marian defeated Mercy 56-45. (Special to the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Looking to keep pace in the Catholic High School League Central Division, the Birmingham Marian girls basketball team hosted Farmington Hills Mercy, a longtime rival that they beat just 18 days earlier.

Behind a balanced attack on offense and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch, the Mustangs defended their home court on Tuesday night, knocking off the Marlins, 56-45.

“We want to prove that we’re a different team this year,” Marian head coach Mary Cicerone said.

Marian, which improves to 4-2 in the league, had to fend off a late, fourth-quarter charge by Mercy. But after drilling 10-of-10 free throws in the final minutes of the game, the Mustangs stifled any comeback chance the Marlins had.

“We were fortunate to make all of our free throws,” Cicerone said. “Brittany (Gray) and Kamry (Peake) were awesome from the line in the fourth.”

Mercy trailed by 13 points after the third quarter, but a 14-5 scoring run by the Marlins put them within five of Marian, forcing the Mustangs to make free throws.

“We had a string of bad shots and bad possessions that let them back in,” Cicerone said. “We were forcing things. It was ugly.”

Seniors Peake and Kilyn Bulluck led Marian, combining for 23 points in the win.

“We felt that if we could stop them defensively, we’d be able to score,” Cicerone said. “I thought that Kamry has done a great job of distributing the ball, as well as getting to the basket and finishing.”

But it wasn’t just the Mustangs’ seniors on Tuesday night. Freshman Bailey Thomas scored nine points, and Gray, a sophomore, added seven off the bench. Also, freshman Elizabeth Grobbel, who scored 14 points against Mercy in the two team’s first meeting, came off the bench and provided Marian with some quality minutes.

“She came off the bench and gave us some great minutes,” Cicerone said. “She finished when we got her the ball, and she was rebounding and defending really well, too. That’s two great games for her against (Mercy) this year.”

Cicerone had eight different players score against Mercy, something that she’s becoming used to with this current group of girls.

“That has been typical of us all year,” she said of her team’s balance on offense. “We’ve obviously got Kilyn, and I think that all of our guards can shoot. Teams are having trouble keying in on one girl.”

For the Marlins, who fall to 3-3 in the CHSL Central Division, sophomore guard Taylor Jones led with a game-high 13 points. Along with Jones, junior Candice Leatherwood contributed 10 points in the loss.

“Offensively, she kind of carried us in the first half,” Mercy head coach Gary Morris said. “Candice hit some shots in the second half for us, but we can’t go into a lull, like we did tonight, against good teams.”

Marian climbs into a tie atop the Central Division with Dearborn Divine Child, which sits at a 4-2 mark. The Mustangs have a short rest before their Thursday matchup with Livonia Ladywood.

“Our next big task is to take down Ladywood,” Cicerone said. “It’s not going to be an easy thing to do.”

Mercy gets back to work on Thursday also, taking on Warren Regina.

“I thought we did a lot of good things in the fourth quarter,” Morris said. “We’ve got a day of practice on Wednesday, and then we’re back at it for a tough game against Regina the next night.”

Last Updated: 1/29/2013 11:01:34 PM EST

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