By LARRY VAUGHT
Mercer County hit a record 16 3-pointers, became the first repeat state champion in 12 years and won a school record 35 games. But that’s not what I am going to remember most about this team that demolished Mercy 74-34 in the state title game.
No, I’m going to remember all five senior starters — Seygan Robins, Emma Davis, Emmy Souder, Lexy Lake and Faith Lake — on the court together as the final seconds ran off the clock. Coach Chris Souder gave them the option of him taking them out one at a time after he put them back into the game with 33 seconds left so Mercer fans could give each an ovation.
The girls chose to stay on the court together — and that was only fitting since they have been together since elementary school and are best friends on and off the court.
“They don’t care about not scoring. They could care less who is the all-star or all-tournament. They want to win and do it together. That’s all that matters to them,” Souder said. “They finished together. It was pretty emotional for me to see that.”
Souder said it hit him about 5:30 a.m. Sunday that “this was it” for this team when it played Mercer in the state final. It was Mercer’s fourth straight year in the state and he knew how special this time had been.
“I knew we just had to make sure we celebrated these kids no matter what happened,” Souder said. “Even if we got beat, I could not be all doom and gloom, not with all they had done. It was so nice just to sit back and watch. I told them they just had to go out and do it, and did they ever do it.
“I am still trying to soak it all in. It’s hard to believe a little school won back to back titles with all the transfer stuff and everything that goes on now. But these girls grew up together and won back to back state titles together. That’s pretty amazing.”
Souder sensed before the final game that the pressure was off and his team was ready to play — not that he expected a 40-point win.
“These girls are great girls and don’t cuss and stuff. But before the game I heard them all scream, ‘Hell yeah,’ and for them that is really being jacked up,” the coach said. “What they did that game was unbelievable. I had never seen anything like it. They (Mercy) were averaging 85 points per game in the state and we put the clamps on them. We were hitting 3’s from everywhere. It was just an impressive display. It might have been the best overall game I have ever seen played.
“Emma Davis was incredible. She did not get a point Saturday (in the semifinals) but owned the boards the first half of that game and looked like a jumping bean. Then in the final she hits five 3’s. She was just doing whatever we asked. Two of the four games she did not score but she had a great tournament,” Souder said. “But they all did.”
The team had a huge caravan on the way home Sunday night with a police escort as it came back into Harrodsburg. Souder and the players have already been on a TV show and radio show this week and will join me on WPBK-FM in Stanford Thursday from 7:30-8 a.m. and again on WKYB-FM in Danville March 22 from 9-10 a.m.
They did not have a welcome home celebration Sunday due in part to the weather but also because tonight Robins — state tournament MVP the last two years — should be named Miss Basketball and Mercer senior Trevon Faulkner should be Mr. Basketball. If it happens, it will be the first time two players from the same school and done that in the same year.
Plus, Lexy Lake is in the final for a spot in the 3-point contest at the Final Four. Go to highschoolslam.com to vote for her. She has made it through three rounds of the 16-player bracket contest and voting ends Thursday to pick the winner. She hit five 3-point shots in the title game.
“It would be a perfect ending to the year and their careers if Seygan gets Miss Basketball and Lexy goes to Texas (for the Final Four 3-point contest),” Souder said. “That would be really cool.
“You could tell late in the season we were feeling the pressure. I finally told them to just quit worrying and just go play so we can get the happy ending we want. I knew we had it in us and that last game we could have played anybody and won. I am just so proud of these kids and how they did it with character and pride. They played for what is on the front of the jersey (Mercer County) and they have to go down as one of the best teams ever in Kentucky.”
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Mercer averaged 60 points per game — and gave up just 42.5 per game — and shot 45 percent from the field overall and 45 percent from 3-point range (41 of 91) in the state tourney. The Titans averaged 7.5 steals and 3.5 blocks per game along with an incredible 14 assists. Opponents shot just 36 percent against Mercer and only 22 percent from 3-point range.
Robins led Mercer in scoring at 12.5 points per game but Souder was at 11.5, Lexy Lake 10.5 and Davis 10.0. Davis shot 55 percent (10 of 18) from 3-point range while Lexy Lake was 12 of 23 and Robins nine of 16. Souder averaged 8.8 rebounds and Robins 6.3 assists. Souder and Robins both had nine steals — or 2.3 per game.