Mercer's focus sinks Harrodsburg in district opener

March 03, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

LANCASTER - It's still Mercer County, but it's an entirely different team when March rolls around. The Scotties' focus seems just a little sharper when they enter the postseason.

It's something Mercer coach Chris Souder has gotten used to, and he saw it again Tuesday night when his team trounced Harrodsburg 81-29 in a 46th District Tournament semifinal at Garrard County.

The seventh-ranked Scotties (21-9) made quick work of their first postseason opponent as they began the defense of their 12th Region championship.

"We're really a lot more focused," Mercer guard Chelsea Goodman said. "It seems hard to do, but somehow we get it done."


Souder said that's a by-product of the Scotties' tournament experience.

"We've got so much experience now," Souder said. "Two or three years ago, I don't think we'd have this approach. But they know every practice is important, every game is important."

They know the importance of snuffing out any hope an underdog like Harrodsburg (4-20) might harbor.

The game was effectively decided before the first quarter ended.

"We really stressed that you've got to come out strong no matter who you play," said Goodman, who scored 13 of her game-high 25 points in the first quarter.

Mercer (21-8) used its stifling defense to force 14 turnovers in the first quarter and 16 more in the second.

In fact, all but five of the Scotties' 45 first-half points came off Harrodsburg turnovers.

"We're a pretty good defensive basketball team, but Mercer's just a really good defensive team, too, and they got a lot of points off turnovers from us," Harrodsburg acting head coach Scott Bugg said.

Scotties outscored Pioneers 41-1

Sarah Roach scored the game's first basket for Harrodsburg (4-20), but the Pioneers didn't get another field goal until the 1:46 mark of the second quarter.Between those baskets, Mercer outscored them 41-1.

Mercer began substituting liberally in the second quarter, and its starters were long gone by the fourth quarter, resting up for the district title game Friday night against Burgin.

"We wanted to work on some things and use this as a steppingstone," Goodman said.

The Scotties shot 43.1 percent (25-for-58) from the field, while Harrodsburg shot 23.1 percent (9-for-39) and finished with 39 turnovers.

Chrystal Claunch had 17 points and Jillian Horn added 10 for Mercer. Tara Camden had a team-high six rebounds, all in the fourth quarter.

Harrodsburg got 11 points from Roach and 12 rebounds from Tiffany Smith.

The Pioneers played without guard Mandy Long, who missed their last three games with a thigh injury.

Their loss marked the end of a difficult season in which they reached 20 losses for the fourth time in six years. Their coach, Bryan Tolliver, was suspended in early February following his arrest on a sexual abuse charge, and they had only nine players in uniform Tuesday.

"People get caught up in looking at records, but there are a lot of things I felt like we did positively, that we improved on," said Bugg, who went 1-7 after taking over the team.

Bugg said he would like to be involved with the team in some capacity next year.

"This is a great bunch of young women, and they're fun to work with," he said. "Even if it's just supporting them from the bleachers, I'll be there in some way, shape or fashion."

HARRODSBURG (4-20) - Sarah Roach 11, Tiffany Smith 9, Laila Graves 9.

MERCER (21-8) - Jillian Horn 10, Chrystal Claunch 17, Courtney Watts 9, Chelsea Goodman 25, Mackenzie Carey 3, Lindsey Alford 4, Tara Camden 5, Erica Lee 3, Celia Newby 2, Krysta Honchell 3.

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