February 27th, 2012
Mercy Uses 31 Steals To Advance To Semis
Jaguars defeat Bullitt Central 82-49 in regional quarterfinals
It's no secret that Mercy Academy's basketball program and its success has been built upon the foundation of an unmatched defensive intensity.
Despite that knowlege, Jaguars head coach Mark Evans still spent the weekend driving home the significant of quality "D" at practice and how important it would be now that his team has reached the one-and-done round of the postseason.
On Monday afternoon, his team proved they got the message.
Mercy built a 25-3 first-quater lead, swiped 24 of its 31 steals in the first half and defeated Bullitt Central 82-49 in the Class Act 6th Region Tournament quarterfinal opener at Atherton High School.
"We've been talking about 'defense' and now's the time," said Evans. "I thought we came out with great intensity and I think the starters and those seven or eight kids earned the opportunity to watch a little bit (of the game), and they also gave us a chance to play some of our other kids."
"But I hope we learned that if we play good defense, we'll be fine no matter who (our opponent is) in this region."
The game was never in doubt after just the first several minutes, as Mercy raced ahead to a 22-0 lead over the Lady Cougars. The Jags knocked down four 3-pointers in the opening quarter - two by junior point guard Kayla Richardson - and turned the clamps with a ferocious man-on-man full-court press that rattled Bullitt Central.
The Jags did back off to some zone and halfcourt trap presses, but the shellshocked Lady Cougars never recovered.
Mercy senior forward Christine Roush was a perfect 8-of-8 from the field, scored a game-high 20 points and pulled down a team-high 8 rebounds during the win. She also hit her lone three-point attempt and was 3-of-4 from the free throw line.
Richardson scored 10 of her 13 points to help set the tone in the first quarter.
Bullitt Central didn't score its first points until junior Kayla Riggs' 3-pointer with 38 seconds to go in the first quarter. Mercy eventually went to the locker room leading 53-20 after shooting 20-of-36 (56 percent) from the field over the course of the first two quarters. and scoring 29 first-half points off 24 Lady Cougar turnovers.
"We were real good in the first quarter. (Bullitt Central) lost a key guard right after the Bullitt East game at the end of the season, and they don't have that kind of depth to lose a player. And I'm sure that affected the way they handled our pressure," said Evans. "I feel bad for (coach) Bryan (Bates) - he's a good guy - and for Bullitt Central, but we're happy to do what we did and I'm proud of us overall."
Evans had the luxury of resting his key players for most of the second half. The aforementioned Roush played the most of all 12 Mercy players that saw the floor, and that was only a hair more than 16 minutes on the court.
The Jags scored 34 points off its bench, led by 10 points from freshman Malerie Martin. Senior guard Maggie Bergamini (5), junior Morgan Doherty (9) and junior Caroline Keck (4) took advantage of their minutes and combined for 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
Senior Courtney Roush and junior Makenzie Stilger each had 4 steals apiece.
As a team, Mercy scored a total of 42 points off 31 Bullitt Central turnovers and converted 33 of its 60 field goal attempts. The Jaguars' largest lead came when a Doherty jumper put Mercy ahead 62-20 midway through the third quarter.
The Lady Cougars ends its season with a 21-9 record. They were led in the losing effort on Monday by 19 points from Riggs and 14 points from senior Kaitlyn McKnight. Bullitt Central had won 12 of its final 13 games down the stretch of the season before losing in the district finals last Thursday and in the regional quarterfinals on Monday.
With the win, Mercy (26-5) advances to the Class Act 6th Region Tournament semifinals on Wednesday against Holy Cross (26-5). These two programs haven't met since Jan. 21, 2004. The Jags won that game 71-36.
Wednesday's game will tip off at 3:30pm and be played at Bellarmine University's Knights Hall.