Mercer's defense too much for Burgin

March 07, 2004|MARTY WARREN

LANCASTER - It didn't matter how many players Burgin coach Keith Monson put on the floor to try to simulate Mercer County's pressure defense, he knew that his young team would have problems handling the basketball.

The Bulldogs turned the ball over 18 times in the first half against the Scotties here Friday night before playing much better in the second half. However, Mercer, the defending 12th Region champion, still scored an easy an 64-34 win in the 46th District Tournament title game at Garrard County.

Both teams advance to this week's 12th Region Tournament, which will also be played at Garrard County beginning Wednesday night. Pairings will be made today.

"They are a tremendous team and we knew that and didn't try to kids ourselves," Monson said. "We prepared to win like your supposed to, but we knew it would take an exceptional game on our part and a letdown by them for us to stay in the game with them.


"We practiced with 10 players on the court to try to get used to their press, and even at that we didn't imitate it like we should have. They are not ranked in the top 10 in the state for nothing."

Mercer coach Chris Souder said he didn't know how Burgin would react to playing in its first district final since 1990.

"We didn't know if they would come out really jacked up and play on adrenaline or really tight because they haven't been in that situation," the Mercer coach said. "I thought they handled themselves pretty well, though.

"We wanted to throw the knockout punch at them early and played with a lot of intensity like I thought we would. It's hard for teams to simulate our quickness no matter how many people you practice against. Our guards know where each other is at all times, and that's the trademark of our team."

Burgin (17-13) got a follow shot from Stephanie Stewart to grab an early 4-2 advantage before sophomore guard Chrystal Claunch went on a 3-point shooting tear while nailing three straight attempts to give Mercer (22-8) an 11-6 lead. Stewart's bucket trimmed the lead to 8-6 before the Scotties reeled off 11 straight points, including seven by center Erica Lee, to take a 22-8 lead after one period.

"We didn't have anybody to handle Lee," Monson said. "She is such a strong body that all they had to do was throw over the top of us. We couldn't stop her."

"I probably shouldn't say this, but she is the best player in the region when she plays like that," Souder said. "When she puts her mind to playing, there are not many people that are going to stop her."

Mercer led 35-12 at the half

Burgin turned the ball over 10 times, and didn't score the final 5 minutes, 37 seconds of the second frame. Mercer went on another 9-0 scoring run to close the period and led 35-12 at the half.

The Bulldogs were playing without starting point guard Clara Sanders, who injured her knee in Burgin's win over Garrard County Tuesday, and started eighth-grader Bev Harris in her place.

"She tried her best at the point, but she is still only 12 years old and they were coming after her like a buzzsaw," the Burgin coach said. "As a team, we threw a lot of lazy passes in the first half that resulted in them getting easy baskets. We played better the second half, though."

Burgin's leading scorer, Taylor Bottoms, was in foul trouble for much of the game.

Mercer, which has now won the last four 46th District titles, connected on 13 of 24 shots in the second half and led by as many as 33 points.

Still, Monson said this team has a lot to be proud of.

"Despite the loss, we get to play another game, and we haven't played a game this late in March in forever," Monson said. "We're extremely proud of their effort and these kids will cherish this memory for a lifetime."

Mercer hit on 27 of 61 shots from the field for 44 percent ,while Burgin hit 13 of 34 tries for 38 percent.

Burgin finished with 26 turnovers compared to only 12 for Mercer.

BURGIN (17-13) - Taylor Bottoms 10, Bev Harris 5, Stephanie Stewart 9, Andrea Warner 5, Tiffany Shewmaker 2, Meredith Lear 1, Jessica Allen 2.

MERCER (22-8) - Chrystal Claunch 15, Courtney Watts 4, Chelsea Goodman 9, Jillian Horn 5, Erin Ashford 3, Erica Lee 21, Cala Alford 4, Lindsey Alford 3.

All-Tournament Team

Andrea Adams, Garrard County; Taylor Bottoms, Burgin; Chrystal Claunch, Mercer County; Chelsea Goodman, Mercer County; Laila Graves, Harrodsburg; An-drea Warner, Burgin; Chrystal Claunch, Courtney Watts, Mercer County.

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