"I usually need to score to be able to have more confidence. It just builds my confidence up, and makes me do better I guess," Flora said.
Souder said it was good to see Flora finally get going.
"It was huge, but she's got the green light whenever she wants it. She's got free reign to do what she wants most of the time," he said. "She's hit a bunch of those in her career. She doesn't really think about it, she just lets it go."
After her 3-pointer, Flora fed Abra Sickles for two straight baskets, then scored inside to put Mercer (6-4) ahead 46-43 with 2:06 remaining. She then went 3-for-4 at the foul line in the final 44.1 seconds to seal the victory.
Mercer advanced to play Madison Central in this afternoon's championship game. Madison Central beat Henry Clay 54-50 in the other semifinal.
"(The win) was very big, because we would usually probably fold towards the end like that," Flora admitted. "We really wanted to work hard to get to the championship of our own tournament."
Sickles scored 11 of her 16 points in the second half, pulled down nine rebounds and blocked three shots.
"I thought she did a great job in the second half, a great job," Souder said.
But very little was great for the Titans early.
Early foul trouble
Flora, who scored 43 points in two games Monday, picked up two fouls in the first 2:10 and was benched. Mercer was down 21-11 when she came back in with 5:19 left in the first half, but she picked up her third foul 21 seconds later and sat again.
"Sitting on the bench was really hard. It just felt like I couldn't do anything out there," she said.
Souder wasn't sure his team could withstand not having Flora out there.
"We've got to have her on the floor because she's such a threat. She's our outside scoring threat," Souder said. "And when she was out of the game there early, we just had a hard time scoring."
Two free throws by Cortney Morrow put Monticello ahead 23-11 with 4:35 left in the first half. Natalie VanArsdall's 3-pointer made it 23-14 halfway through the second quarter, but neither team could score until Julie Higgenbotham's layup with 1:05 left in the half cut the lead to 23-16. Monticello held a 24-16 edge at the half, and Souder said he felt Mercer was lucky to be that close.
"I give some of our bench, and some of our younger kids, credit for just hanging around," he said. "I told them at halftime, as bad as we played, maybe as bad as we played all year, we were only down eight points.
"We got a big bucket from Julie Higgenbotham, who hasn't been playing much but has been playing well in practice. We talked if we could get it to single digits at the half, we're in good shape."
Mercer was 7-for-27 from the field in the first half, including 1-for-11 from 3-point range. The Titans finished 19-for-55, hit five of their final 15 3-pointers and were 5-for-10 from the free throw line.
"We came out in the third quarter with a little more intensity, a little more fire, and started executing," Souder said.
Mercer opened the second half on a 9-2 run, as Sickles sandwiched two putbacks between a layup from Ashley Roby and a 3-pointer from Tori Freeman to cut the Trojans' lead to 26-25.
Lacey Alley's 3-pointer pushed the lead to 29-25, but Roby and Freeman each hit 3-pointers, then Lyndell Yeast banked one in from long range to give Mercer a 34-32 lead heading to the fourth quarter. Roby had nine points and Freeman had eight points with four assists.
Lacey had 15 points and 11 rebounds for Monticello, which outrebounded Mercer 40-20 and went 14-for-18 at the foul line. But the Trojans also shot 27 percent (13-for-47) and turned the ball over 22 times to just 12 for Mercer.
* * *
Anderson Circle Farm Titan Christmas Clash at Mercer County
Mercer County . . . . 11 - 16 - 34 - 49
Monticello . . . . . . . .17 - 24 - 32 - 43
MERCER (6-4) - Tori Freeman 8, Natalie VanArsdall 3, Leah Flora 8, Ashley Roby 9, Abra Sickles 16, Lyndell Yeast 3, Julie Higgenbotham 2.
MONTICELLO (9-4) - Cortney Morrow 4, Lacey Alley 15, Whitney Owens 5, Raven Frost 2, Leandra Brown 17.