March 7th, 2018

Mercy poised to make long state tourney run

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor

Mercy poised to make long state tourney run
The Jaguars with the Sixth Region title trophy / photo by Conor Revell

Mercy’s basketball team will play in its first St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet 16® State Basketball Tournament since 2015 Thursday afternoon at Northern Kentucky University’s BB&T Arena in Highlands Heights, Ky.

From top to bottom, the Jaguars (22-9) have good balance and depth.

“I love the chemistry we have on this team,” head coach Keith Baisch said. “They have a lot of fun together and with the coaches. There’s a lot of sarcasm in practices, but they’re a good group. The best part is that we’ve adjusted to where we can have fun on the court but be serious at the same time. A lot of times the practices are fun. They’re all in for the same thing and that’s to get the W.”

Hope Sivori, a sophomore point guard, is their anchor, and directs traffic.

“What’s special about this team is the bond we have,” Sivori said laughing as teammate Regan Berger distracts her during her interview. “We’re goofy like this. We’re always having a good time. On the court we know what each other is going to do. We know when one is going to cut. We all have the same mentality. We all want to win, we’re ready.”

Sivori is averaging 10.3 points per game and has the ability to drive, pass, shoot the mid-range jay, or hit the three-point shot.

Berger plays at the No. 2 spot and can drive or hit the outside shot and is Baisch’s leader on the court.

“She’s my vocal leader on the court,” Baisch said. “Raquael (Reese) can step and up and be a vocal leader. I’d love for Hope to have that role, but I think she’s still a little young. Next year I can see her being a floor general. She (Hope) has done a heck of a job as a sophomore point-guard and has grown a lot mentally and getting us in the right offense.”

Berger, a junior, is averaging 10.8 points per game.

“We’re going to just have to play our game,” Berger said. “We need to not give into to the style that they’re playing. We need to be focused and confident and be teammates. We’re a team and not individuals.”

Then there’s Taziah Jenks, the ever so dangerous sophomore small-forward that can do everything, and is often un-guardable when she takes the ball to the hole.

Jenks is averaging 14.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, team highs for both.

“TT is just TT,” Baisch said. “She’s a special talent. She’s only in her fourth year of playing basketball. She started late, but has always worked hard, and on her skills. She is definitely a kid that can be a game changer. She can score, rebound, gets steals. There’s so many things that kid can do and she doesn’t know how good she can be. The kid could have a bright future if she continues to work hard.”

Danielle Feldkamp, the lone 6-foot-3 senior, clogs the middle, and is averaging 8.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

“We’re going to have to go into the state tournament focused,” Feldkamp said. “On Monday we were not focused at all in practice. It wasn’t a good practice. On Tuesday it was looking to be the same way, but we regrouped, and it turned out to be a better practice. It wasn’t our best though. We’re going to have to communicate and be great teammates.”

Raquael Reese does all the little things from playing hard nose defense, to rebounding (5.3 per game) the ball, and getting steals.

“I’m looking forward to seeing it all come together,” Reese said. “We have worked really hard this year and we’re ready to continue working towards our goal.”

Then there’s the bench, the Jaguars go nine-deep. Paige Taylor is an athletic sophomore guard, Sydney Rivette can light it up from three-point land, Sidney Shepherd is the backup point-guard and can also hit from outside, Jaylyn Shorter is an athletic No. 3 that can get the ball to the hole.

“We’re nine-strong when we’re on the court,” Baisch said. “I think the injuries early on helped us prepare for that. We took some lumps along the way, but we’re 9-1 since February, and that was to Sacred Heart in overtime. We’ve been playing really good and our depth has a lot to do with it.”

The ingredients are there for the Jaguars to make a long run, the big question is what’s going to happen when the team steps out onto the floor in a hostile environment for the first time.

“I’m going to have to keep my composure and not let the game speed me up,” Sivori said. “I have to play my pace. It’s going to be very loud so I’m going to have repeat Keith when I’m going down the court. I’m going to have to keep everybody under control and slow the ball down if we get wild.”

None of the Jaguars have played in a state tournament game. Feldkamp was a freshman in the student-section during the 2015 state tournament.

Mercy will open up the state tourney with Knott County Central (24-9), the 14th Region champion.

“We have to go in not too nervous or excited,” Reese said. “We have to stay as calm as possible and try to treat the state tournament just like any other game.”

The Lady Patriots have been to state recently, having won the 14th Region last year, and lost to 63-53 to Henderson County in the first round of the state tournament.

“I think what will help is that we’re going to bring them over to the building Wednesday night to watch some games and get used to the arena,” Baisch said. The first time we walk onto the court won’t be until game-time though.

“You never know how the kids are going to handle it, but these kids have been in a lot of big games. It won’t quite the same as this, but you hope for the best, and that they handle it. I just want them to remember they’re little girls, to go out and have fun, enjoy the moment, and let it be.”

Knott County Central will be led by Jada Higgins (14.5 points, 5.9 rebounds), Breanna Harrington (12.0 points, 7.2 rebounds), and Kamryn Thornsberry (8.7 points per game).

“They have some strong players,” Berger said. “They’re aggressive and scrappy. We need to just play our game.”

The Patriots are averaging 64.8 points and allowing 48.5 points per game.

“We’re going to have to contain Jaida Higgins,” Baisch said. “She can flat out fly and we will definitely have to be able to contain her and limit her transition. She’s very capable of getting to the basket if you don’t guard her. They’re a good and tough team. We’re excited to play them.”

The only common opponents the two teams have is Eastern who beat the Lady Patriots 72-60 back on Dec. 29th at Hazard High.

Mercy fell to Eastern 67-60 on opening night (Nov. 27th), but was missing Feldkamp, Reese, and Taylor.

Tipoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. Thursday. 


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