Mercer girls defeat Danville in regional final rematch
Published 2:38 pm Thursday, December 14, 2023
By MIKE MARSEE
It was a rematch of the regional championship, but in name only.
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Nine months after the Mercer County girls defeated Danville for the 12th Region title, two teams with the same names but very different makeups met again in an early-season game.
The outcome was the same, as Mercer scored 37 points in the second half to defeat Danville 58-50.
However, the differences between these teams and the two teams that played for the regional title in March were stark.
Both teams have potential, but both are younger, less experienced clubs without many of the key players who helped them win a combined 51 games last season.
“That’s not the regional championship game there,” Danville coach Judie Mason said.
Mercer (3-2) returned only two players who were on the floor when it defeated Danville 63-59 in overtime on March 5 to win the 12th Region title.
The Lady Titans relied primarily on veterans as they overcame a 4-10 start to finish the season in Rupp Arena with a 21-14 record, but they have only four upperclassmen on the roster this season.
“We lack experience pretty much across the board, but they’re working extremely hard and they’re being very coachable,” Mercer coach Hayley Spivey said. “There’s going to be things that we do well and there’s going to be things that we don’t do well, but the biggest thing that I’m very proud of them for is they don’t quit, they keep working, they keep learning and our goal is to get better every game.”
Danville (1-3) has more experience but lost players who averaged 47 of the team’s 63 points per game last season, when the Lady Admirals broke the school’s single-season wins record as they went 30-3.
The Lady Admirals’ most proven players are juniors, and they have lost to Jackson County, Pulaski County and Mercer as part of a difficult early-season schedule that will include a game Friday against Southwestern.
“We’re going to get better,” Mason said. “I knew I was going to get my lumps and I’m OK with that. I did it on purpose because I want them to see (what it takes). A lot of teams think you can graduate kids and still be good, but until you get your butt beat, then you realize, ‘Ohhh.’”
Danville led 36-33 before Mercer scored nine straight points to take a 42-36 lead with 7:24 remaining.
“I thought we played a really good second half. The first half, not so much,” Spivey said. “They did some things that we weren’t expecting and we had to make adjustments.”
Skylar Webb hit two 3-point shots and Anna Drakeford scored twice during that run, and Drakeford, who has led the Lady Titans in scoring in four of their five games, scored 13 of their last 27 points and finished with a season-high 29.
“I think she knew that they were going to be up on her and she had a chance to get to the rim, and I think she did a good job of kind of taking over the game at the end,” Spivey said.
Izzie Carlton added 13 points for Mercer, which shot 47 percent from the field and made 19 of 30 free throws.
“You’re not going to beat anybody when they’re shooting that many free throws,” Mason said. “And they were fouls.”
Mason said it was a rough night for the Danville defense, which has been good in other games.
“We played horrible defense, and with my defense if one person doesn’t know what they’re doing it looks bad,” she said. “And it looked bad at times because we always had that one person out of rotation. … They’re a hard matchup, but I didn’t think we played well tonight.”
Myla Turner hit four of Danville’s five 3-pointers, scored 17 points in the second half and led the Lady Admirals with 20 points. Alayah Quisenberry added 15 points, and Tayvionna Caldwell had a game-high 12 rebounds.