Mercer County vs. Franklin County for girls’ state title

March 11, 2017 FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS  — Mercer County will play Franklin County  in the championship game of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen in BB&T Arena Sunday at 2 p.m.

Mercer County (30-6) earned a spot in the finals for the first time by beating Murray 67-60 in Saturday’s semifinals.

Franklin County (33-5) advanced to the title game by beating Holmes 51-36 in Saturday’s nightcap. The Flyers have twice been state runners-up, both times to Butler, in 1980 and last year.

Mercer County Coach Chris Souder said his program has come a long way in recent years. He remembers his Titans getting demolished by Elizabethtown 79-38 in the first round of the Sweet Sixteen in 2015.

They made a better showing last year, making it to the semifinals before losing to Franklin County 55-51.

“It’s just incredible the way this program’s evolved over the last several years,” Souder said. “From when these girls were eighth-graders and getting beat by about 150 by E-town in the first round, to where we are right now.

“I’ve been a head coach a long time and this is special. You only dream of playing in the state championship game.”

Mercer County won its 12th game in a row thanks to stellar free-throw shooting. It hit 29 of 38 from the line, led by Seygan Robins (13 of 17) and Emma Souder (9 of 10).

Franklin County bolted to a 26-13 halftime lead over Holmes on the way to its 18th consecutive victory. Princess Stewart’s 15 points and 7 rebounds led the Flyers. Brooklyn Miles had 12 points and 6 rebounds.

Joey Thacker’s Flyers get a chance to erase the memory of last year’s finals when they lost to Butler 62-36.

They also get a chance to avenge a home-court 72-63 loss to Mercer County in January.

“We want to try and control the tempo and get the ball in right people’s hands at the right time,” Thacker said.