When it came to hosting its own Lady Cobra Holiday Tournament, the Bishop Grimes girls basketball team did not mess around, picking first-rate opponents to give itself the maximum challenge in the closing days of 2009.
What no one -- even the Cobras -- could have imagined was the way it would turn out.
As heavy underdogs in Wednesday night's championship game against Rochester Mercy, Grimes came up with what head coach John Cifonelli said was the best performance of his entire 11-year tenure to beat Mercy 52-42.
The prestige of the opposition had much to do with this sentiment. Mercy came into the game 7-0 and ranked no. 3 in the latest state Class AA poll, and it had just crushed Watertown IHC in the tournament's opening round.
Yet for a long time in this title game, a fired-up Grimes squad made Mercy look quite ordinary.
Applying its usual defensive pressure, the Cobras forced Mercy into all kinds of mistakes throughout the first half. All Mercy could manage was six points, a stark contrast from the 73 it registered against IHC.
Meanwhile, Grimes fully exploited Mercy's zone defense in the first quarter, as Cady Kalemba and Amelia Heiselman hit four 3-pointers between them. That, plus sound rebounding (this despite Mercy's height advantage), pushed Grimes to a 26-6 lead early in the third quarter.
Inevitably, Mercy began to eat away at the Cobras' advantage, starting to hit shots and cutting the margin in half, to 31-21, by the start of the fourth quarter. When the margin shrank to four midway through the final period, Grimes looked to be in trouble.
But now the Cobras' poise would shine through. Emma Kelley hit a pair of timely baskets. Amanda Marcely would continue to crash the boards. And Kalemba capped her tournament MVP performance by sinking four big free throws.