Mercer County girls win Sweet Sixteen in style
BY MIKE FIELDS
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS – When Chris Souder took over as Mercer County girls’ basketball coach 18 years ago, he allowed himself to imagine the Titans winning a state title someday.
“It’s always a dream, it’s always a goal,” he said. “But two years ago we talked about it actually being a realistic goal. If everybody would stay the course, buy into the way we wanted to play, we felt this was going to be a special bunch.”
That feeling became a reality Sunday afternoon when Mercer County beat Franklin County 85-71 in the championship game of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen before 3,963 fans in BB&T Arena.
The Titans’ 85 points were the second most in finals history. M.C. Napier set the record with an 88-56 win over Highlands in the 1994 title game.
Mercer County (31-6) put on a dazzling display of team basketball.
All five Titans’ starters scored in double figures, led by Emma Souder’s 20 points and Seygan Robins’ 19. Lexy Lake had 15, Lyric Houston 14 and Faith Lake 10.
“That’s definitely one of our weapons,” Robins said. “Just the fact that everybody can score, you can’t face-guard just one of us. Somebody else is going to step up always.”
Robins and Houston each had 7 assists, and Houston, the only senior, also grabbed 13 rebounds.
Franklin County, which lost in the finals to Butler last year, trailed by as many as 18 points. But Joey Thacker’s Flyers, who were led by Princess Stewart’s 30 points and 7 rebounds, made a strong rally in the closing minutes and trimmed Mercer County’s lead to 8.
But the Titans never panicked. They got a clutch three-pointer from Lexy Lake to stifle Franklin County’s comeback and pulled away again.
“We told the girls, there’s storms in ball games and you’ve just gotta weather them,” Coach Souder said. “We did a great job weathering every storm they threw at us.
“I told them with two minutes left to look at the (BB&T Arena) board — this is why we’re going to win the state championship. All five starters are in double figures. This is what we’re about.”
The three-point shot was a key weapon for Mercer County all week. The Titans made 37 of 93 threes (40%) in sweeping by Boyd County, Clark County, Murray and Franklin County.
Robins, a junior who has commited to Louisville, was named Sweet Sixteen MVP. She totaled 86 points, 24 assists, 9 rebounds and 4 steals in four games.
Robins isn’t the only Titan who’s commited to playing college sports. Junior Emma Souder will play basketball at NKU. The Lake sisters, along with Emma Davis (all of them juniors), will play hoops Southeast Missouri State. Houston will play softball at Lindsey Wilson.
With so many starters back next year, Emma Souder, said “We hope we can win another one next year.”
Chris Souder, who’s won 424 games at Mercer County, including three consecutive 12th Region titles, can dare to keep dreaming about winning another state championship.
“This is a special group you get once in a lifetime,” he said. “There’s not an ounce of jealousy in any of them.”
For Mercer County, this is the school’s biggest victory since the Titans’ football team won a state championship in 2006.
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