Mercer led 30-23 when the wheels fell off, and Notre Dame took control for good.
Catie Ammerman, who scored 17 points, scored eight points during a 15-0 run which turned the Panda's seven-point deficit into a 38-30 lead with 1 minute, 11 seconds left in the third quarter. She started the run with a layup, and hit two 3-pointers, the first giving Notre Dame the lead for good at 32-30.
Notre Dame was 8-for-13 shooting that quarter, hitting four of six 3-pointers. For the game, the Panda's shot 18 of 50 from the field, and went 9-for-20 at the free throw line.
Mercer finished 17 of 52 from the floor, making six of 27 3-pointers, and just five of 15 free throws.
Notre Dame also outrebounded Mercer 39-28.
"They weren't overly big, but they were physical, and they were aggressive," Souder said. "And they just seemed to pound us on the boards, and it was one of those things that every loose ball they seemed to get.
"And that's what I get frustrated with. They aren't quicker than us, so how are they were getting those balls before were?"
Mercer did cut the lead in half before the end of the quarter on a free throw and 3-pointer from Leah Flora, who scored 14 points.
Then, Tori Freeman's 3-pointer from out top to open the fourth quarter made it a 38-37 game. But Mercer could get no closer.
"I was proud of our kids. We came back and cut it to one, so we responded but we didn't do enough of those little things. We didn't block out, and they hit some big shots. It's one of those games we hopefully can learn from," Souder said. "I wanted it to be a big-game atmosphere, and I wanted to see how our kids would respond and handle it. And at times they did a really goob job, and other times we didn't. But I told them, down the line if this is the game we learn a lot from, then it was worth it."
Abra Sickles, who led Mercer with 18 points and eight rebounds, scored on a putback that made it a 43-39 game with 3:54 remaining. But Notre Dame scored the next five points, getting a putback from Kate Worland, and a free throw and jumper from Olivia Voskuhl to stretch the lead to 48-39 with 2:12 to play. The Titans never got closer than three points the rest of the way.
Mercer came out strong and never trailed in the first half.
A 3-pointer and putback for Ashley Roby staked Mercer to a 7-0 lead before the Pandas scored the next six points. It was a 10-10 game before Sickles' putback at the buzzer gave Mercer the 12-10 lead after a quarter.
Sickles continued to dominate in the second quarter as Mercer opened up an eight point lead. She scored seven points during a 9-3 run which put the Titans ahead 19-11 with 4:52 left in the first half. Flora had the other basket on a backdoor layup off of Freeman's assist for the other basket in the run.
Sickles scored 11 first-half point, but Souder said when Notre Dame concentrated on stopping her, Mercer did not respond.
"They started sagging on her and ever time she caught it, she'd have three people on her," Souder said. "And she missed a lot of easy shots, but wit her size we've got to throw it in there and she needs to recognize when it's a double or triple team and kick it out sometimes. But, if Abra's not in there, we're not in the ball game."
Mercer still led 21-13 when Voskuhl hit two free throws and Payton Schilling nailed a jumper to cut Mercer's lead to trim the lead to 21-17 at the half. Voskuhl scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds off the bench.
Titan Christmas Clash At Mercer County
NOTRE DAME (9-3) — Payton Schilling 3, Lesley 5, Olivia Voskuhl 16, Kate Worland 3, Catie Ammerman 17, Lizzie Brannen 6, Chandler Clark 2,
MERCER (7-3) — Tori Freeman 6, Leah Flora 14, Natalie VanArsdall 3, Ashly Roby 5, Abra Sickles 18.Notre Dame10173851Mercer County12213446