By LARRY VAUGHT
South Laurel coach Chris Souder, who guided Mercer County to state championships in 2017 and 2018, was thrilled when his team beat No. 1 Sacred Heart 58-57 in the girls state tournament Thursday afternoon.
His team lost 74-50 to Sacred Heart two months ago but got 20 points from Eastern Kentucky signee Amerah Steele along with three rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals to win this team. Western Kentucky signee Ally Collett, who had knee surgery in January, had 12 points, six assists and three steals.
South Laurel was 10-for-17 from 3-point range as Sydnie Hall had 11 points and both her and Steele made three 3-pointers.
“Our seniors were great and having Rachel Presley this time made a huge difference for us. She adds so much to go with our seniors. It was an awesome game and great win. If not my biggest win, had to be one of the top two or three with all this team has been through,” Souder said.
Assistant coach Greg Edwards, the former head coach at Boyle County, fractured his sternum in a late season automobile accident. He’s not allowed to drive but his wife, Nancy, would bring him to practice and sometimes he stayed the night with Souder.
“Coach Edwards knows his stuff and had a lot of good suggestions down the stretch for us,” Souder said.
Souder had got a text from the KHSAA before his game about no fans at Friday’s games except for those who got tickets from the four allotted to each player. However, as soon as his game ended, he got the news about the end of the tourney before going to his press conference. He told Steele, Collett and Hall before they went to the press conference with him but not the rest of the team.
“We had a great win and then came the gut punch,” Souder said. “I am just hoping they find a way to make it (the tournament) up later. It may be a long shot, but we can hope. It could be in April and we would be all for it. Our kids were upset but I told them we were not doing that.
“I told them before the game this was bonus basketball and to enjoy it. We are going to stay in Lexington through the weekend. We’re going to have some fun. No doom and gloom over something we can’t control. That seemed to get them all wound back up.
Souder said this could have been a “great state tournament” with a lot of teams, including South Laurel, capable of winning.
“We felt if we knocked off the No. 1 team then we could beat anybody,” the South Laurel coach said. “We watched Bullitt East win Wednesday. They could win. Same with Ryle. Casey struggled a bit against Pikeville but I know they are good enough to have made a strong title turn. And there were still more teams to play. It’s unfortunate we may never know how this all would have played out.”