January 29th, 2011

Big Final Quarter Propels Mercy To Finals

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

Big Final Quarter Propels Mercy To Finals
photo by Chris Jung

Jags' free throws down the stretch oust Boone Co. 75-68

Following a quarterfinal victory on Friday that came down to the final second, Mercy Academy put together an epic fourth quarter on Saturday morning and left nothing in doubt,  scoring 25 points in the final period of its LIT semifinal game against Boone County.

The Jaguars put four scorers in double figures, knocked down 14, fourth-quarter free throws (including its final 10 attempts) and defeated BC 75-68 to advance to the Louisville Invitational Tournament Championship on Saturday night. The Jaguar victory snapped Boone County's 13-game winning streak.

"We came out in that fourth quarter and jumped all over them with our defense, got a couple of takeaways, went on a little run and erased that six-point lead," said Mercy Head Coach Mark Evans. "Then it was ours. You could just see it. It's like they gave their last shot (at it) and didn't have anything left. I also knew if they got us to the free throw line, we were going to be fine and they'd be done, because we knock down free throws."

Boone County played the majority of the second half without its head coach after Nell Fookes picked up her second technical foul of the game with 4:05 to go in the third quarter, causing the coach to get ejected from the game and removed from the bench.

Fookes' first technical at the second quarter's 3:50 mark gave Mercy senior Juliann Miller two free throws and the Jaguars took a 33-23 lead.

Mercy eventually took a 38-34 halftime lead into the locker room after the Lady Rebels quietly chipped away at the lead. Boone County was 6-of-11 from the three-point line in the first half, including Stacie Strout's third of the game that cut the Jags' lead to four points.

Strout kept it going in the second half, as her fourth 3-pointer tied the game a minute and a half into the third quarter. Her fifth trey put Boone County ahead 43-42 with 4:34 go in the third quarter - moments before Fookes' ejection.

Mercy started the fourth quarter trailing 56-50, but a layup by Emily Goetz got the Jaguars off on the right foot and sparked a key stretch of the game. And after junior Christine Roush - the game's MVP - knocked down a pair of free throws, senior point guard Lauren Faris drilled a 3-pointer to cut the Boone County lead to 58-57.

Faris would draw a foul and convert two free throws during the next Mercy possession, and her five straight points put the Jags back out in front 59-58. Mercy would never trail again.

Mercy would go on to hit 14 free throws in the fourth quarter, as Miller and Faris combined to go 9-of-10 down the stretch from the charity stripe. Mercy sophomore Whitney Hartlage blocked Annie Browning's three-point attempt with six seconds in the game to put an exclamation point on the dominant fourth quarter.

"We press from beginning to end on a college court. That's very difficult to do," said Evans. "So in the end, for them to suck it up and put a run on like that, it's pretty special. We also executed and did everything right in the end. I thought we played fantastic today."

The four Mercy scorers in double digits were Hartlage (18), Miller (14), Roush (12) and Faris (11). Roush also led her team in rebounding with nine boards and three steals. Miller had seven assists. Goetz and Courtney Roush combined for 15 points and six rebounds.

Boone County, who kept Mercy working hard with a balanced inside-outside game, was paced by Sydney Moss' 21 points and 10 rebounds. Moss was also 9-of-14 from the free throw line.

"I think Moss is the real deal, baby," said Evans. "You don't see many like that come around too much. She's just so, so athletic."

Mercy outrebounded Boone County 33-22 and finished 32-of-37 as a team from the free throw line. The 75 points scored by Mercy was the most scored by any team thus far during the 14 games of this week's LIT.

Back before Christmas, Mercy and Manual met in Lexington for the Republic Bank Classic Championship, and Mercy won that close matchup 62-59. Saturday night in the LIT Championship at Bellarmine University should be another tight contest between two of the state's best teams, but Evans isn't sure about how his players' legs will hold up.

"How fast we can recover for tonight, I don't know," said Evans. "All I was worried about was this game. I knew that I couldn't play it safely. We had to go all out.....and we did. Now we're in the finals and anything can happen, but I'm a little concerned about it. I think that the saving grace for us was that Sacred Heart played well and had a great game against Manual (in the other semifinal). At least they were pushed. In (Manual's) first two games, they were not pushed. We were pushed in every game, maybe by our doing."

Mercy and Manual will tip-off at 8pm at Bellarmine's Knights Hall on Saturday.


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