Dearborn Divine Child scored 18 points in the first quarter of its Catholic League semifinal against Farmington Hills Mercy on Wednesday.
Hailey Case and Riley Blair scored all of them.
The senior guards set the tone for the Falcons’ 62-58 victory and the right to meet top-ranked Birmingham Marian Sunday at Calihan Hall. Marian has beaten Divine Child (13-4) twice, 58-34 and 62-32.
Blair was everywhere: scoring, breaking the press, blocking two shots, rebounding and at times guarding Mercy’s best player.
She finished with 34 points, and her four free throws in the final 49 seconds sealed a dramatic finish.
Case finished with 12 points.
“That’s the sign of a true gamer,” Falcons coach Mary Laney said. “It’s her senior year, and all the seniors came back with the goal of getting back to Calihan. Riley obviously was going to lead the way there.”
Case had nine points, all on triples, and Blair scored nine the old-fashioned way, including a three-point play and two free throws, as they dominated the Marlins (14-4) in the first eight minutes, 18-8.
“We knew they were going to have great defense, every time we play them they do,” said Blair. “They make it hard to create a shot. We focused. One of our goals in practice was our inside game. I think we were looking in there a lot more than we had been in past games. I thought the first quarter was big for our confidence.”
Besides scoring, Blair had the responsibility of slowing down all-state candidate Taylor Jones, who scored 27 points for the Marlins.
“When she got her second we had to switch, then when it came down to it we had to use her length against Taylor, who is a great player,” said Laney.
Jones had four points in the first quarter, then exploded for 10 points in the second, leading an 8-0 spurt that got the Marlins within 26-20.
Divine Child rallied behind, who else?
Case and Blair scored the next four points to open up a 30-20 cushion.
Case and Blair combined for 27 of the Falcons’ 31 points in the first half, while Jones scored 16. It added up to a 31-26 halftime lead for the Falcons.
Mercy started the third quarter with a triple by Jordyn Schluter to trim the deficit to two, but Blair led a 14-2 spurt by the Falcons to increase the lead to 45-31.
Jones led Mercy’s comeback before a knee injury slowed her explosiveness with 37.4 seconds left in the third quarter and the Marlins trailing, 48-40.
Mercy got as closed as 57-54 on two free throws by Sierra Wangler, but Blair’s free throws sealed the deal.
“They say great players make great plays,” Mercy coach Gary Morris said. “Taylor is going to Oakland, and she played great, and Riley is going to Ferris State. I thought we got off to a slow start. I told the kids it reminded me a lot of the first game at our place. They jumped on us early. They were up 16-5 after the first quarter. We battled back, but we never go the lead and we never tied it.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.