HOLLAND, Mich. – Every young player dreams of hitting a bucket at the buzzer. But not many dream of hitting two in the same game. And even fewer actually do it.
Wisconsin-Whitewater junior Mary Merg hit a pair of buzzer-beaters on Friday night, the first a 3-pointer to force overtime and the second a floater in the paint, to give the Warhawks a 64-62 victory against Amherst in the Division III semifinals at Hope College’s DeVos Fieldhouse.
“It is kind of like a blur to me,” Merg said. “It’s unbelievable; words can’t describe the feeling.”
Merg, a 5-foot-7 guard from Greendale, Wis., was falling to her left when she launched a long 3-pointer at the end of regulation. Despite not having the lead since halftime (25-24), the Warhawks were headed to overtime. Whitewater grabbed a quick lead in the extra period but Amherst roared back and tied the game at 62 with less than seven seconds to play.
Merg took the ball in the backcourt and headed up the left sideline. A screen from senior center Cortney Kumerow, who also helped Merg find room for her OT-forcing 3-pointer, gave Merg a lane to toss up the game-winner.
“It is unbelievable what Mary [Merg] can do with the clock running down,” Kumerow said. “It’s amazing.”
Merg would never have had that chance to win it if she had not hit two other 3-pointers in the final three minutes of regulation as Whitewater (26-6) trailed by 12 (52-40) with less than three minutes remaining in the second half. Warhawks guard Megan Theune hit a triple with 2:46 left to play and Merg hit two subsequent 3-pointers, with 2:23 and 53 seconds left to play, to bring the ‘Hawks to within striking distance.
“Wow, what a game,” Whitewater coach Keri Carollo said. “I have to give all the credit in the world to these guys for never giving up. It was an impressive, impressive performance. Amherst has a great program, a phenomenal program. We kept our focus. Defensively we wanted to keep the pressure on to give us as many possessions as possible.”
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The Wahawks, who are making their second semifinal appearance, having finished third in 2008, will play either DePauw or the Williams Ephs in Saturday’s national championship game.
“I can’t describe all of those shots that went in,” Amherst coach G.P. Gromacki said. “It was like a guardian angel was steering those shots in. They made the big shots when they needed to.”
Merg and the other Warhawks also felt as though they had a guardian angel beside them Friday night — former teammate Alex Scarbro, who committed suicide in November.
“I had a little help from No. 32 up there,” Merg said.
“You can feel her presence out there,” Kumerow said. “How does that happen twice in a game? We play for her and that makes us play harder.”
Merg finished the game with 18 points while Kumerow had 19. Senior guard Marcia Voigt led Amherst with 16 points.