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Mercer County celebrates back-to-back state titles

March 11, 2018 FieldsColumn

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Mercer County seniors (l-r) Faith Lake, Emmy Souder, Lexy Lake, Emma Davis and Seygan Robins hold the state title trophy for the second year in a row.

BY MIKE FIELDS

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Oh, to have been in the Mercer County locker room at halftime of the girls’ state basketball finals at NKU’s BB&T Arena on Sunday afternoon when the defending champion Titans led Mercy by the unfathomable score of 52-14.

Instead of getting a lecture and X’s and O’s strategy from Coach Chris Souder, the Titans were surely high-fiving, giggling and figuring out who would get to kiss the championship trophy first.

“We were laughing,” Souder admitted.

“It was crazy,” said senior leader Seygan Robins. “We were celebrating a lot at halftime.”

With a mercy-rule running clock in effect the rest of the way, Mercer County wound up winning 74-34 and putting an exclamation point on its back-to-back championships.

The Titans claimed this St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Sweet 16 title in record-setting style, too, by hitting 16 three-pointers, breaking their own state tournament mark of 14 that they made against Boyd County last year.

Mercer County put Mercy away early, using a 23-0 run, including five three-pointers, to race to a 33-8 lead midway through the second quarter.

“We came out a little timid and they made us pay for it,” Jaguars Coach Keith Baisch said. “We’ve been overwhelming teams in the third quarter; Mercer County overwhelmed us in the first quarter.”

The Titans hit 12 of 19 three-pointers in the first half, including Lexy Lake’s 5-for-5 long-range sniping. Lake’s buzzer-beater from the left corner gave her team that ridiculous 38-point halftime lead.

Souder thought his girls might be due a hot-shooting game, “but I thought it might be 52-48 at halftime.”

Lexy Lake and Emma Davis each hit five threes and shared scoring honors with 17 points apiece.

“We all started hitting and we all got hot,” Lake said of the team’s Midas touch.

Emmy Souder hit three bombs and had 15 points. She also grabbed nine rebounds.

Robins, who won Sweet 16 MVP honors for the second year in a row, ran the show and finished with eight points and seven assists.

“It was just awesome seeing everybody cut loose,” Robins said. “We were really having fun out there.”

Mercer County shot 57 percent from the field, and 61.5% (16 of 26) from three-point range.

Mercy, which averaged 85 points in its previous three games, had a miserable shooting performance: 13 of 43 (30%).

“Defense won this for us,” Chris Souder said. “We shot the ball well, but our defense the last two games has been outstanding.”

Souder had been trying to get his team to relax and not worry about the pressure of repeating as champs.

“This last little bit between the region and state has been absolutely gut-wrenching,” he said. “But the girls finally went out today and just played.”

Mercer County became the first team to win back-to-back title since Lexington Catholic did it in 2005 and 2006.

But Souder noted the Titans were the first public school to do it since Laurel County won three in a row 40 years ago.

“I’m so proud to be able to coach these girls. It was so fun. And to finish 36-3 with the schedule we had is absolutely insane.

“I still say we’re going to go down as one of the greatest teams of all time because these girls epitomize what a team is all about.”

The five seniors — Robins, Souder, Davis and twins Lexy and Faith Lake — each scored more than 1,000 points in their careers. And all five have signed to play college hoops.

Robins, a Miss Basketball candidate is headed to Louisville. The Lakes are going to Campbellsville. Souder is bound for NKU, and Davis for UT-Martin.

The five of them sat out most of the fourth quarter before returning to court in the closing seconds.

“I asked them if they wanted to come out one at a time, but they wanted to be out there together at the end,” Chris Souder said. “They truly love each other. That’s why we’re a true team.”

Mercer County Coach Chris Souder flashes the “two-titles” sign

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