Mercer girls top Southwestern in OT, return to title game

Published 4:41 am Sunday, March 5, 2023


Contributing Writer

SOMERSET — The Mercer County girls took Southwestern’s best shot, and now they’ll get another shot at a title.

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The Titans survived a second-half surge, then put themselves in the right places in overtime to pull out a 53-52 victory in a girls 12th Region Tournament semifinal at Pulaski County.

Lindsay Jessie scored on a putback with six seconds remaining to lift Mercer over the team that had beaten it in each of the past two regional championship games.

The Titans led 30-19 at halftime and were still up 36-28 with 2:48 left in the third quarter before Southwestern rallied with the run that Mercer coach Hayley Spivey told her team to expect.

“I told them, ‘Be prepared for a run.’ I said, ‘All we’ve got to do is weather the run,’ and I thought that we did that,” Spivey said.

The lead changed hands six times in overtime, the last when Jessie, who didn’t score in regulation but had four points in the fifth period, rebounded Anna Drakeford’s missed shot and put it back in.

Southwestern got a timeout with 4.6 seconds left, and Payton Acey’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer — a shot contested by Jessie — bounced harmlessly off the rim.

“Lindsay had made some mistakes earlier in the game, but she kept fighting and kept playing hard,” Spivey said.

Mercer (19-13), which lost 10 of its first 14 games after losing star guard Timberlynn Yeast to a preseason knee injury, will play for the regional title for the third consecutive year. The Titans will face Danville at 3 p.m. Sunday for a spot in the state tournament.

The Titans did their best to get to the basket in overtime. A layup by Jessie gave them a 49-48 lead, and another by Drakeford made it 51-50 before Ayden Smiddy gave Southwestern the lead on a layup with 1:19 remaining.

“We told them the more aggressive team is the one that’s going to be able to win in overtime, and I thought my team was aggressive and they responded well … so I’m extremely proud of them, especially considering how we started off the season,” Spivey said. “To be in this position just feels really good.”

Southwestern (20-13), which had beaten Mercer in the past two regional finals, scored eight straight points to tie the game at 36-all 10 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Mercer, which defeated the Lady Warriors 55-42 on Feb. 16 in Harrodsburg, led for most of the fourth quarter and was up 47-44 when Smiddy sank a 3-point shot to tie the game with 18 seconds left.

Drakeford led Mercer with 25 points, and Teigh Yeast added 17. Yeast had seven rebounds and Jessie had six.

Acey had 18 points for Southwestern.