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Mercer County swarms Danville

With nearly everyone back from last year’s state final four run and a top-10 state ranking already this season, it could be easy to look at the Mercer County girls basketball team as a near finished product.

So that’s what is most frightening about Monday’s 90-54 win at Danville — how much Titans coach Chris Souder believes his team can and will improve.

“We’re nowhere near where we need to be and could be,” Souder said. “We will get better, and it is scary. … The sky’s the limit, but it’s going to get pretty tough.”

Danville (2-3) entered the game on a two-game winning streak, and the Admirals showed signs of their own improvement in the second and third quarters, when Mercer outscored them by only five points. However, the Titans put dominating bookends on the game with a 54-23 edge in the first and fourth quarters.

That’s what had Ads coach Michael Menifee encouraged despite the loss, how his team responded to a 20-point halftime deficit. They started the third quarter on a 7-0 run and cut the lead to 13 points, and again to 14 later in the third.

“Being a Danville grad, I told them, ‘We’re Admirals, we fight until there are all zeroes on the board. We’re going to come out and keep scratching and clawing, and we’re not going to give up,’” Menifee said. “A couple basketball plays here and there, you get it under 10 (points) and you never know what happens. They battled and that’s all I can ask for.”

The Titans (2-1) did their damage from behind the lines in the first quarter, making 5-of-6 free throws and five 3-pointers. Seygan Robins had three 3s in the frame and totaled 13 of her game-high 26 points in the 26-12 opening quarter.

They upped the lead to 45-25 by halftime, and that’s where Souder believed he made a mistake.

“I felt like we came out a little stale in the third quarter,” Souder said. “And maybe that’s my fault. I told them in (the locker room) I’ll do a better job of getting them ready for the second half, regardless of the score.”

The Admirals beat their defenders off the dribble and ended up at the free throw line after driving to the lane. They made 9-of-10 free throws in the quarter and outscored Mercer 18-17.

Ivy Turner scored 11 of her team-high 23 points for the Ads in the second half, going 9-of-11 from the foul line. Her backcourt mates Alyvia Walker (13 points) and Zenoviah Walker (12) also reached double figures for the game.

Souder was pleased to see how Danville pushed his team and used their quickness. It’s a lesson he hopes pays off as the Titans embark on trips to Phoenix and Springfield, Missouri, over the next few weeks.

“They know how to attack, they use their quickness,” Souder said of Danville’s guards. “I told our girls, ‘Make an adjustment, step back off a step.’ Those are the little things that are good for us because we’re going to play quick kids and quick teams. I was glad they did attack us, I wanted to see how we handled it.”

Even with a stale third quarter, Mercer entered the fourth up 62-43. Souder decided to scrap the zone defense his team was working on in favor of man-to-man while issuing a challenge to his team.

“I loved the way they responded,” Souder said. “I said, ‘They’re going to start pressuring us, let’s run the floor, that’s to our advantage.’ Once we get going in transition, we’re pretty tough to handle.”

After Danville scored the first four points of the fourth over the first 1 minute, 57 seconds, the Titans rolled, scoring the next 10 points. They used a 28-11 quarter to make what was once a somewhat competitive game into a benches-clearing runaway.

Emmy Souder and Lexy Lake joined Robins in double figures with 17 and 12 points, respectively. Channing Lewis scored 12 points off the bench, helping Mercer own a 22-4 edge in bench scoring.

The Titans host 46th District foe East Jessamine tonight while Danville hosts McCreary Central on Thursday. The Ads will then travel to face undefeated George Rogers Clark on Friday.

Menifee knows there aren’t too many teams on their schedule which will stack up to the level of Mercer. While admitting the Ads didn’t need to play completely perfect basketball to stand a chance of winning, he said the margin for error was close to that.

“We fought, that’s all I can ask,” he said. “… This game doesn’t define us. If we would have won it, everybody would have sung our praises for a few days. You lose it, it is what it is, you were supposed to lose. This game doesn’t define our season. It’s just another game on the schedule.”

Follow Jeremy Schneider on Twitter @jschneideramn

MERCER CO. 26 19 17 28 — 90

DANVILLE 12 13 18 11 — 54

MERCER COUNTY — Seygan Robins 26, Faith Lake 9, Lexy Lake 12, Lyric Houston 4, Emmy Souder 17, Alie Burke 5, Channing Lewis 12, Lindsay Shope 3, Kierston Bryant 2.

DANVILLE — Zenoviah Walker 12, Alyvia Walker 13, Kirby Alcorn 2, Ivy Turner 23, Dora Swann 1, Carolina Gonzales 2, Amber Wheat 1.