NICHOLASVILLE — The Mercer County girls were dominating West Jessamine by halftime in its 46th District Tournament semifinal Tuesday, but coach Chris Souder was not pleased with how his team was playing.
The Titans led by 21 points at halftime and would go on to beat the Colts 73-42, but it was those first two quarters that had Souder upset.
“I was kind of disappointed because of the way we played against Southwestern,” Souder said, referencing his team’s 63-42 win in their season finale. “I thought we clicked and was thinking we’ve gotten this thing figured out. You’d think after 14 years, I’d know better. We’ve got young kids and then we’ve got transfers that aren’t used to this.
“And we’ve got my daughter (Carli) who has more experience than anybody, and she’s not dressed out (with an elbow injury), so that’s some on me.”
So Souder challenged his team at the half to play with more intensity, knowing the Titans will need that down the road as they go for a 12th Region title.
“(Assistant) coach (Spencer) Tatum even chimed in, and it’s good coming from coach Tatum sometimes because he doesn’t say much, he’s laid back. And when he really chimes in and raises his voice they tend to listen,” Souder said.
“We came out in the third quarter and I was really pleased. I said forget all these kinds of presses, we’re just going to get after them full court man-to-man and try to pick up the intensity level and we seemed to do that.”
Catheryne Claunch had 14 of her game-high 16 points in the first half, while also getting seven of Mercer’s 20 steals and handing out four assists. Cassidy Martin had 14 points and Kandace Gash added 11 for the Titans (23-8), who face Burgin in Friday’s district final as they bid for their fifth straight district title. Burgin beat East Jessamine 48-31 in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
“I thought Catheryne set the tone early by getting to the rim. I told her it runs through her, and it does, she’s our point guard,” Souder said. “Cassidy was probably a little bit tight. I don’t know what she was used to before. And it was your first district tournament, and she’s probably thinking, ‘Dang, we lose here, we’re done.’ And I’m sure that runs through her head. And she responded, and the best way for Cassidy to respond is by scoring points because that’s her game.”
Mercer led 37-16 at the half, and got a running clock halfway through the third quarter. Lyric Houston, who had six points and four steals, opened the second half with a jumper, then Martin scored two straight buckets off turnovers to make it 43-16 with just under 7 minutes to go in the quarter.
Martin scored eight points in the third, and her layup with 4:14 left made it a 56-21 lead and started the running clock. Mercer led 64-26 after three quarters.
It was just 18-12 after the first quarter, and Mercer led 22-14 after two Claunch free throws, then a steal from Claunch led to a jumper from Heidi Huffman as part of a 9-0 run that put Mercer up 29-14 with 4:40 left in the half. Mercer’s offense stalled from there, as the Titans got a 3-pointer and layup from Claunch and 3-pointer from Raegan Freeman over the final 4 minutes and led 37-16.
Mercer scored 15 points off of 18 West Jessamine turnovers in the first half and managed to take 20 more shots than the Colts, going 14 for 37 while West was 8 of 17. For the game, Mercer was 25 of 56, going 3 of 12 from 3-point range, and making 18 of 24 free throws. The Titans scored 23 points off of 31 West turnovers.
The Colts (5-19) went 14 of 28 from the floor and made 12 of 24 free throws and outrebounded Mercer 23-21.
46th District Tournament
At East Jessamine
West Jessamine 12 16 26 42
Mercer County 18 37 64 73
WEST JESSAMINE (5-19) — Shelby Hawkins 12, Emma Baxter 9, Ashlee Rose 5, Allison Mims 2, Kendell Anderson 5, Katelyn Quillen 2, Rachel Monell 5, Allie Howard 2.
MERCER (23-8) — Catheryne Claunch 16, Cassidy Martin 14, Heidi Huffman 8, Lyric Houston 6, Kandace Gash 11, Raegan Freeman 7, Seygan Robins 5, Faith Lake 2, Lexy Lake 2, Emma Davis 1.