For a quarter, the West Jessamine Lady Colts (5-19) held on to a hope that they could knock off the Mercer Lady Titans (23-8) in the first round of the 46th District tournament Tuesday night at East Jessamine High School.
But when it was all said and done, the Mercer County press was merciless as it forced 34 turnovers en route to a 73-42 victory.
“Early on we did OK against it; then the physical pressure just started wearing on us and wearing on us,” West coach Stephen Greene said. “We were not getting any kind of foul calls like we did at the end of the game.”
Having already lost to Mercer 84-37 in late January, the Lady Colts came out and matched the Lady Titans’ physical style of play to start the game.
“Both teams weren’t going to let up at all, no matter how the officials called it,” Greene said. “Both teams were going to keep pushing and pushing.”
After Mercer took a 12-6 lead following a bucket by Heidi Huffman with 3:53 left in the opening period, the Lady Colts responded by cutting the lead to 12-10 following a score by Shelby Hawkins with an assist from Ashlee Rose with 3:02 left in the quarter.
Mercer County extended the lead to 18-10 before Emma Baxter cut it to 18-12 with a jumper to end the first.
In the second quarter, Mercer’s press really became a factor as it forced turnover after turnover — nine total in the second quarter and 19 in the first half.
“It hurt our ball handlers, and it caused issues with our passes, and it led to a lot of turnovers,” Greene said.
With West struggling, Mercer took advantage and pushed its lead to double digits, where it stayed for the remainder of the game.
While Mercer’s offense surged, the Lady Colts’ offense was stumped in the second quarter, as West managed just four points, and found itself trailing 37-16 at halftime.
Greene said the problems were turnovers and an inability to execute the offense when West did beat the press.
“We had trouble getting settled on the half court after getting through the press, and we went away from the basket when we needed to go toward it in the second quarter,” he said.
Mercer opened up the second half by stepping on the proverbial gas pedal as it quickly pushed its lead out to 52-19 following a pair of foul shots by Catheryne Claunch with 4:49 left in the third quarter.
Defensively, the Lady Titans kept up the press for the first six minutes of the half as West’s offense continued to struggle to find its rhythm.
From that point, the Lady Titans cruised to the 31-point victory.
West Jessamine was paced by Hawkins and Baxter, who each finished with nine points. Rose tossed in six points, and Kendall Anderson and Rachel Monell finished with five points each.
Mercer County was led by Claunch, who finished with a game-high 23 points. Kandace Gash added 11 points in the Lady Titans’ win.