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Mercer County must hurdle Mercy to repeat as state champ

March 10, 2018 FieldsColumn


Mercer County’s Emma Davis puts the ‘D’ on Clark County’s Maleaha Bell. The Cards shot 29% against Mercer County. (KHSAA photo)

BY MIKE FIELDS (March 10, 2018)

Mercer County’s girls have played 144 basketball games over the last four seasons and won 125 of them, including four consecutive region titles and a state championship.

And yet the Titans can still impress their coach by raising their game to another level.

That was the case in the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Sweet 16 semifinals Saturday night in NKU’s BB&T Arena.

Mercer County, which rarely plays a zone, used one to completely stifle Clark County on its way to a 44-27 victory.

The Cardinals managed just 2 points in the first 10 minutes, and they trailed 22-9 at halftime. They finished the night shooting 28.6%, including 1-for-12 from three-point range.

“I told the girls that probably since they’ve been in high school that’s the best defensive performance we’ve had,” Mercer County Coach Chris Souder said.

“For some reason we haven’t been able to guard a trash can here lately, so we thought we’d go to a zone.

“When we’re in a zone, they talk and communicate . . . They just did a fabulous job.”

The Titans still have work to do if they want to become the first team to win back-to-back state titles since Lexington Catholic in 2005-2006.

Mercer County (34-3) will face Mercy (25-9) in Sunday’s 2 p.m. finals.

After the Jaguars bounced Boyd County 78-59 in Saturday’s nightcap, Coach Keith Baisch didn’t sound surprised about the title-game matchup.

“We’ve kind of been preparing for this for a while,” he said. “We kind of knew (Mercer County was) the team to beat.

“They’re good. They’re very talented. They have multiple weapons. They can go inside or outside, and they have very good length we’ll have to deal with. And they’ve got a Miss Basketball candidate (Seygan Robins) and she’s really tough.”

Mercer County better bring its defense to the championship game. Mercy has rung up 85, 93 and 78 points in its three wins this week.

The Jaguars have lots of weapons, most notably Taziah Jenks, who had 24 points, including 4-for-7 three-point shooting, against Boyd County. The 6-foot-1 sophomore also had 8 rebounds and 6 assists.

Mercy’s 6-foot-3 Danielle Feldkamp had 15 points & 17 rebounds against Boyd County. (KHSAA photo)

Mercy exploited its size advantage with 6-3 senior Danielle Feldkamp, who had 15 points and 17 rebounds.

Hope Sivori had 14 points and 11 boards, and Regan Berger added 11 points for the 6th Region champs.

Baisch pointed to second-chance points as the difference in the game. “We dominated in that category,” he said, noting the Jags’ 19-2 advantage.

Boyd County never found its long-range eye. It missed 24 of 32 three-point attempts.

The Lions were led by Savannah Wheeler and Harley Paynter who had 22 points each.

Mercer County’s balance is its strength, as it showed again against Clark County. 

Robins didn’t get her first field goal until midway through the fourth quarter, yet the Titans were comfortably ahead. (Robins finished with 7 points and 5 assists.)

Emma Davis had only 2 points but crashed the boards for 9 rebounds.

Nevertheless, offense was no problem for the Titans.

Faith and Lexy Lake, twin sharpshooters, combined for 20 points on 6-for-13 three-point shooting.

Emmy Souder contributed 10 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals for the 12th Region representatives.

Clark County, which lost to Mercer County in last year’s quarterfinals, came up short against the Titans again.

The Cardinals’ 10-for-35 field-goal shooting did them in.

“Tough night for GRC hoops,” Coach Robbie Graham said. 

Mercer County, meanwhile, goes for another title. Chris Souder hopes his team can play relaxed and not let the stress of repeating burden them.

Baisch is hoping the Jaguars keep motoring along as they try to bring the school a third championship. (Mercy won the state title in 1992 and 2010).

“Wow, what a ride these girls are taking us on,” Baisch said. “They’re definitely making us (coaches) look good.”