Mercer County girls showing maturity in title-defending season

Published 6:39 pm Thursday, January 18, 2018

Mercer County girls basketball has played more games out of state than in Harrodsburg this season.

The top-ranked Titans have backed up their road play, too, with tournament wins in the Queen of the Commonwealth (held at Bullitt East) and in Naples, Florida.

Mercer head coach Chris Souder said his team is approaching the season no different than in years past, but he’s seen his stellar seniors step up in a different area this year.

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We are really approaching this season just like we do every season,” coach Souder said. “Our goals have remained the same and the girls have always bought into whatever we ask them to do. We have noted a lot of maturity from the seniors especially in some of these close games and how they are handling adversity where some of theses games we probably would have lost that we have pulled out this year. Also they way they approached the off-season and just the everyday grind of practices.”

On Monday, Mercer lost just its second game of the season — despite a brutal schedule. It was against Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Chattanooga, Tenn.) — the No. 7 ranked team in the country, according to MaxPreps. The Titans’ first loss was to the then-No.1 ranked team in the nation.

The Music City was another tough task for us and we thought the kids battled hard in both games,” coach Souder said. “Hamilton Heights is probably the most talented team in the country so the fact that we battled with them I was really proud of our kids. We had to play a different style and our kids didn’t even flinch when we asked them to slow the game down and do some different things. Another sign of maturity. The two losses are probably the two best teams in the country so no shame in that and our kids competed very hard in both of those.”

But Mercer still hasn’t lost to an in-state opponent, and the Titans are still the favorites to cut down the nets in March.

We learn something from every game regardless of win or loss,” coach Souder said. “I purposely schedule these tough games so our kids are completely battle tested by March. There are still no guarantees but the more we learn about our team the better off we are come tournament time.”

You won’t see many Titans on the state leaders for points this year, but that’s because they’ve continued to share the basketball this year. Emmy Souder leading the team with 14.1 points per game, while Miss Basketball candidate Seygan Robins averages 13.3 per game. Those are the only two Titans averaging double figures, although five others average at least five points per game.

There hasn’t been any more emphasis on sharing the ball this year vs last year it is just how these girls are,” coach Souder said. “It is another reason why we won the state tournament last year because they are just selfless players. It is very refreshing coaching them and how the approach the game. It would be easy for Seygan to get 30 plus per game but she isn’t built that way and that is why she is the best player in the state. It isn’t just about points with her it is about team. That is what the definition of Miss Basketball is all about.”

Emmy Souder also leads the team in rebounds this year, averaging more than seven per game. Those career-highs in points and rebounds are a big benefit to the Titans this year and will benefit her at the next level, coach Souder said.

Emmy has taken her game to another level which is a testament to how hard she has worked,” the coach said. “She has spent extra time working on things that will benefit her at NKU that also are benefitting us as well.”

Coach Souder also noted his other three starters — Faith Lake, Lexy Lake and Emma Davis — and said they’ve all taken a step up this season.

“Emma, Faith and Lexy have also stepped their game up and it seems like one of them hits a big shot or free throw in all these big games,” coach Souder said. “Faith has become our defensive stopper which is very difficult but has taken a lot of pride in that role. Emma has embraced a starting role and continues to get better and better. Lexy gets a lot of defensive attention because she is such a good shooter and when she is on it just frees up the rest of our team. Also sophomore Channing Lewis and junior Toni McCombs give big minutes and contributions nearly every game. Those two would start for most teams in the state of Kentucky.”

Mercer will stay in Kentucky the rest of the season but the competition doesn’t rest: They’ll play in two more prolific tournaments in Louisville — one at Mercy and one at Bellarmine.

“We stay in state the rest of the season but still have some out of state competition,” coach Souder said. “Hopefully the schedule we have built will again pay dividends for us but we stay humble enough to realize that everyone is gunning for us and it just takes one bad night. Our girls do a great job of respecting opponents and being ready, night in and night out. I love this team and what they represent.”