Fifty years of competition, 50 years of rivalry, 50 years of history can be summed up with just two words – The Game.
For Mercy High School and the Institute of Notre Dame (IND) the rivalry is much more than a competition on the court.
“The history of both of these schools goes back and you know whatever sport we play with them, we always want to beat Mercy,” said IND athletic director, Summer Quisgard. “Even if they’re not in our conference, we want to take out Mercy.”
Nearly 5,000 fans are expected to turn out Friday night when the Penguins and the Magic square off Friday night at SECU Arena.
“Having 5,000 people, that’s a lot bigger than a log of collegiate games. You have to keep the kids in control and coach them to play through the noise and play in the environment,” said Mercy head coach Steve Anderson. “It’s another game, but it’s not another game. The preparation is key.”
IND head coach Robert DuBose says this game carries a special weight for the school and his girls.
“They look forward to that because they have family, friends and it’s Mercy. That’s a rivalry that’s been going on for years,” he said.
Both coaches have something in the common – it’s their first matchup as head coaches.
Coach Anderson is focusing on the history, the rivalry, and the pride.
“For me as a coach, it’s an opportunity to showcase women’s basketball in the area.”
The Penguins and Coach DuBose are hoping to take home the first ever trophy in this historic series.
“What I do know is we won the first game,” he said. “We lost No. 10, we won No. 20, No. 30 and No. 40. So this is No. 50, it’s the golden and we have to take it home.”
The Game is the largest high school girls’ basketball event in the state. Over the years it has grown larger than just Mercy versus IND. It’s a girls’ basketball event.
“This game only serves to further elevate the sport,” Anderson said. “I tell my girls, you never know who’s in the stands watching. You have to do your best whenever you’re on the floor.”
For both schools, this game carries a homecoming atmosphere. Alums come back to cheer their school and connect with former and current students. In addition to the basketball teams, both schools cheer and dance squads also perform.
“It keeps us relevant. It helps out a lot,” DuBose said. “We always want to be on the winning side, but just the history and the culture and just what the school does, especially IND giving back to the community. It means a lot. I know it means a lot to me and my girls.”
With an event that’s as old as the Super Bowl, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and drama. The coaches have the difficult task of trying to keep the girls focused and committed.
“I don’t think you can just take it as the next game,” Anderson said. “You have to recognize the history and the special significance; you can’t take that for granted.”
For Coach DuBose, it’s all about executing the basics.
“Our motto this season is: ‘We don’t want to work to get things right, we want to work until we can’t get it wrong.’”
The 50th Anniversary of The Game is Friday, January 29 at SECU Arena on the campus of Towson University. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.