Mercer County sweeps East Jessamine in 46th District doubleheader
By BRIAN RICKERD
Girls win third game in four days
NICHOLASVILLE — Mercer County girls basketball coach Chris Souder didn’t expect any complacency off the Titans’ state championship team from a year ago, and his players are backing up his faith early on this time around.
The latest evidence came Tuesday night as top-ranked Mercer County improved to 4-1 win a 71-25 shellacking of a young, rebuilding East Jessamine team.
“I wasn’t worried,” Souder said when asked if he feared his players might rest on last season’s 31-6 laurels. “Maybe with a lot of groups you would be, but with this group — absolutely not. This is just a special group. They are very humble.”
It’s possible, in fact, that Souder’s 2017-18 team may be even better than last year’s state champs.
Souder said the team’s strength coach, Chuck Miller, also has helped.
“He really works our kids,” Souder said of Miller. “They’ve gotten stronger.”
The lone blemish on the Mercer County slate thus far was a 77-60 loss to Riverdale, out of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in the season opener on Dec. 2 at the Marshall County Hoopfest.
Four straight wins have followed, including a come-from-behind, 65-63, win over No. 2 Sacred Heart on Dec. 9 in Harrodsburg.
Souder suggested he’s preaching consistency of effort and fun to this year’s team.
The Titans played like they’re good listeners in the romp over East Jessamine (2-4) Tuesday.
“We have told our kids, ‘There is no pressure,’’’ Souder said. “‘Go out and have fun. You’re kids. You’re in high school. So, to these seniors especially, go out and enjoy this. This is a once in a lifetime thing, so just have fun.’”
In Tuesday’s affair, the Titans jumped out 31-3 in the first quarter and then spent the rest of the night working on a slew of things both offensively and defensively, while Souder was emptying his very deep bench.
Emmy Souder led the winners with 20 points, and Lexy Lake joined her in double figures with 12 points.
Nine Titans scored.
“We have to keep the kids focused,” Souder said of a lopsided game like this. “There’s things we’ve taken from other games that we’ve got to work on. We’re trying to get better defensively and we’re trying to get better in our transition game … to have them talking and actually running things and calling things.”
East Jessamine coach Todd Claunch would be the first to admit that the Titans are widely succeeding in all areas, led by consistency of effort.
“Their effort is constant,” Claunch said when asked to describe Souder’s Titans. “If you’re on the floor, it’s 100 percent all the time, because if not, then you’re on the bench.
“Plus they have great athletes and great basketball players,” Claunch added. “And they have four or five players who have played together for four or five years. You saw some of that in their passing. They know where the others are going to be, they know what the others are going to do, and they know what the others are thinking.”
Next up for Mercer County is a road test at Mason County Saturday at 4:30.
MERCER CO. (71) – Emma Souder 20, Lexy Lake 12, Emma Davis 9, Toni
McCombs 8, Cam Preston 5, Channing Lewis 5, Faith Lake 4, Seygan
Robins 4, Zoey Yeast 4.
EAST JESSAMNE (25) – Jasmine Atkerson 9, Jalynn Landversicht 6, Irma
Hagins 6, Star Lewis 3, Alyssa Brown 1.
Boys come back to beat East
NICHOLASVILLE — Senior forward Trevon Faulkner led the way with 24 points, and Mercer County’s Titans picked up the defensive intensity in the fourth quarter to surge past the East Jessamine Jaguars, 65-58, Tuesday night in boys basketball action.
Mercer County improved to 5-1 heading into a home game against West Jessamine Friday night, while East fell to 0-6.
East coach Chris O’Bryan says with a wry smile that his team is the “best 0-6 team in the state,” and the Jaguars looked like it through three quarters Tuesday, taking a 49-42 edge to the fourth quarter.
“We sat in the huddle (after the third quarter), and we told them, ‘We’re not going to bail you guys out,’” Mercer County coach Josh Hamlin said. “’It’s your time. Seniors, you’ve got to step up.’ And our intensity picked up a lot in the fourth quarter, I thought.”
Indeed. The Titans scored the first 11 points of the final quarter to take a 53-49 lead, and they were not seriously threatened over the final four minutes of the game.
It was a spotty showing by Mercer County, which Hamlin suggested had a lot to do with the late arrival of some of the football players from a Mercer team that reached the quarterfinals of the state playoffs recently.
He also said an emotional and complete performance Saturday in a 73-47 win over Adair County added to some complacency issues versus East.
“We played our best game of the year Saturday in a real emotional game against Adair County, and I think our guys were a little lax defensively tonight,” Hamlin said. “We did not communicate like we normally do.
“Honestly, I think our minds were somewhere else tonight,” he added. “Sometimes that happens with 15-to-18-year-old kids. That’s a tough part of our business. But they responded when they needed to respond, and that’s what good teams do.”
Hamlin says the Titans’ goal is to win the 12th Region and reach the state tournament, and one gets the feeling he sees no reason that isn’t very realistic for his team.
“To reach goals like that, you’re going to be down 7, 10 points at times,” Hamlin said. “It’s all about chipping away. At Knox County (Mercer’s lone loss — 88-72 on Dec. 2), we were down seven and never could get over the hurdle. Tonight, it took us four, five possessions. That’s a building block for us.
“This was a good win,” he added. “It’s always a tough place to play here at East. And it’s always good to start 1-0 (in district) no matter who you are playing against.”
Senior guard Ben Thompson led East Jessamine with 20 points.
MERCER COUNTY (65) – Trevon Faulkner 24, Ty Divine 14, Aaron Johnson 13, Carter Baughman 10, Kaelin Drakefort 2, Bryce Yeast 2.
EAST JESSAMINE (58) – Ben Thompson 20, Will O’Bryan 12, Jacob Bradshaw 12, DeAnte Sanon 6, Zion Thomas 4, Tyler Pitney, Michael Powell 2.
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