Loss will be a learning experience for Mercer

February 24, 2004|MARTY WARREN

HARRODSBURG - Mercer County coach Chris Souder went into Monday night's game with top-ranked Sacred Heart with everything to gain and nothing to lose.

The Valkyries had won back-to-back state titles, won 99 of their last 102 games and had not lost a game to an in-state team since they dropped a 63-58 decision to Covington Holmes in the Fifth-Third Bank Classic on Dec. 22, 2001.

For three quarters last night, though, Mercer had an upset on its mind. The Scotties trailed only 45-40 against an opponent that had destroyed teams all season and had not used their patented press that they have been so successful with at all. However, Sacred Heart picked up its defensive intensity in the fourth quarter, received timely baskets from all-staters Carly Ormerod and Crystal Kelly, and won 65-51 before a packed house at Mercer County Elementary.

Souder scheduled the game as a learning experience for his team, and he got exactly what he said he wanted.


"We learn from our losses," the Mercer coach said. "And what we learned tonight was that you have to play four quarters to be successful. We played three outstanding quarters against the best team in the state, but we lost our focus for two or three minutes in the fourth quarter and when you do that against good teams, it's over.

"The girls are disappointed. They actually thought they had a chance to win the game, and going into the fourth quarter we gave ourselves a chance."

"We schedule these types of games to prepare us for the district and regional tournament," senior guard Courtney Watts said. "We played well for three quarters tonight, but kind of folded in the fourth quarter. This game will make us a better team in March. That's our number one goal right now. Sacred Heart exposed some of our weaknesses tonight and that gives us something to work on."

Sacred Heart coach expected to see Mercer's press

Sacred Heart coach Donna Moir expected to see Mercer press from end to end, especially with starting guard Connie Ferch out with a knee injury.

"They did a nice job with their half-court defense against us until we were able to get the ball inside like I thought we could," the Sacred Heart coach said. "I really thought they would get after us defensively. A lot of teams don't like to press us, but with Connie out I thought they would."

"We didn't press because we felt like we had to guard the post," Mercer guard Chrystal Claunch said." The last time we played them they just ran up and down the court on us for easy layups. We worked hard on a box-and-one (defense) in practice to try to stop Ormerod and we had to change our style some."

Souder agreed.

"We didn't want to get into a track meet with them," Souder said. "I didn't mind trying something new if it will help us in the district and region. The girls picked up our changes well."

The Mercer coach said he was pleased with the Scotties half-court offense, too.

"Our best defense tonight was our offense," Souder added. "They can't score if they don't have the ball. I thought we were more patient on the offensive end tonight than at any time during the season. We tried too hard at times in the fourth quarter when we should have been more patient and those are some of the things that we can learn from."

Souder wanted his team to play hard and build confidence as the Scotties enter tournament play.

"We're human and we are going to lose occasionally," Souder said. "But these kids have remained focused and hate to lose. Hopefully a game like this will show teams in our region that they better not count us yet.

"The kids will hurt for some time because they felt like they could win the game. In the long run, though, they will realize that a game against the best team in the state will make them a better team."

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