By LARRY VAUGHT
Once again Mercer County’s quest to win a second straight girls state championship had a bit of a twist to it, but the result was the same — another Mercer win.
This time it was a 44-27 victory George Rogers Clark that puts Mercer into Sunday’s state championship game against Mercy.
In the last week, Mercer had to survive a game-tying 3-point shot by Lincoln County that missed at the buzzer in the 12th Region semifinal, having a total of 17 players and coaches getting stuck in a hotel elevator the night before the state quarterfinal game, and then having star player Seygan Robins have a contact lens folded up inside her eye in the final minutes of Friday’s win over Owensboro Catholic.
Then came Saturday night’s semifinal game where the Titans had just 12 field goals and didn’t have Robins, the team’s leading scorer, get a field goal until midway of the fourth quarter. Mercer had more made free throws (13) than field goals and almost as many turnovers (10) as it did made field goals.
But the most underrated part of Mercer’s team, the defense, got the win. George Rogers Clark was just 10 of 35 from the field, including 1-for-12 from 3-point range compared to Mercer’s 7-for-19 from long range. George Rogers Clark also got to the foul line only eight times.
“Coach Souder told us if we play defense, we would win. I thought we played great defense,” Mercer senior Lexy Lake said on the KHSAA Radio Network postgame show. “That was our focus today and I thought we executed well today.”
So did Souder.
“Our defense was really good,” the Mercer coach said.
Faith Lake, Lexy’s twin sister, was really good, too. She was 3-for-5 from 3-point range and had 11 points. She also hit two clutch free throws late in the one-point quarterfinal win over Owensboro Catholic.
Lexy Lake had three 3-pointers and a team-high 11 points. Emmy Souder banged inside and finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
“Emma King was big tonight, too,” Souder said.
She had 21 points Friday night but only had two points Saturday. However, she got nine rebounds to help Mercer win the rebounding battle 25-20 and handed out three assists.
Then there was Robins. She was just 2-for-7 from the field but hit her last two shots when it mattered most. She was 3-for-4 at the foul line and finished with seven points and five assists.
“She controlled the offensive end,” Chris Souder said.
Mercy lost to George Rogers Clark 51-50 Dec. 22. Mercer has won nine straight games and 13 of 14. It also lost only 71-68 to Sacred Heart, a team that beat Mercer by 35 points.
The Titans have had to battle the pressure of being defending state champions all season and the consensus favorite to win the title again. Chris Souder says it’s been easy to tell crowds have been pulling for Mercer’s opponents. However, one more win and the Titans have a rare, rare second straight state title.