The squeak of sneakers and the sound of bodies battling for position never sounded so prominent on a basketball court as Wednesday evening at Mercy High School.
As the gymnasium filled with students dressed as Santa Claus, elves, reindeer, pizza, or even a multi-person announce team with an old shoe box turned into a fake camera with an iPhone attached to the top, it was clear there was something more than just another Suffolk League VII girls basketball game being played.
The Mercy gym featured near silence from the opening tipoff until the Monarchs scored their 10th point in their second annual “Silent Night” game. The idea stemmed from a video that assistant coach Jeff Doroski saw from a Taylor University basketball game in Indiana. On Wednesday, the crowd remained quiet until 3:05 left in the first quarter, when Melina Santacroce drove to the basket for Mercy’s 10th point and pandemonium ensued.
“It’s a little weird because it’s pretty quiet,” Santacroce said. “But it’s awesome when everyone just stands up and starts screaming.”
The crowd was rarely muted from there in Mercy’s 55-48 victory over Stony Brook, led by Santacroce’s 24 points and 20 rebounds. Gianna Santacroce, Melina’s younger sister, had 14 points and six rebounds. Caryn Nabrizny added nine points and five assists.
“At first it was like, ‘Oh, it’s a little too quiet,’” Nabrizny said. “But as soon as Melina hit that point and the crowd went wild I was like, ‘This is the energy I need to keep this game going.’ ”
Santacroce and Nabrizny played in last season’s Silent Night game, but with the anticipation from students during the week, the girls admitted to additional nerves.
“The whole school’s been talking about this all week,” said Kieron Traynor, a senior dressed as Santa Claus in the crowd. “Everyone’s dressed up. We have the fake news casters, the food, the Santa, the reindeers. We have a lot of school spirit here.”
Mercy (4-0) held a 23-12 halftime lead but Beth Felix’s 33 points — including seven three-pointers — and multiple assists brought Stony Brook (1-5) back.
“She’s a phenomenal player,” Mercy coach Meaghan Macarthur said. “She not only carries her team on her back but she creates plays for her teammates.”
But every time Felix hit a key shot, Melina answered for Mercy, including back-to-back three-point plays following three-pointers from Felix in the fourth quarter.
“She’s just a super solid player that I don’t think any team in our league has an answer to,” Macarthur said of Melina.
With the spirited effort of both the Mercy players and its fans, the Monarchs turned the Silent Night into a roaring success.
“We feed off our fans,” Nabrizny said. “I’m not going to lie. With them cheering and being so excited to be around here, we really need that at every game.”