Regional review, Tuesday 3/4
Notes and thoughts from day 2 of the girls 12th Region Tournament at Lincoln County:
- Mercer County defeated Southwestern 61-54; Rockcastle County defeated Danville 69-47. Mercer plays Rockcastle in Friday’s second semifinal.
- For the second straight year, the Mercer-Southwestern game delivered the biggest surprise of the first round. Last year it was Southwestern’s 39-point flogging of Mercer, but on Tuesday it was Mercer avenging that loss and doing so with an impressive second-half comeback.
- The Titans appeared to be headed for the same fate as last year when they fell behind 7-0 out of the gate and 23-9 in the second quarter. They still trailed by seven points at halftime, but they came charging back behind a relentless defense that forced Southwestern into 19 second-half turnovers. Yes, 19. Mercer used its advantage in speed and a tenacity that recalled the way its defense harassed opponents in the program’s glory days in the first half of this decade.
- Hannah Barnett scored the basket that tied the game for the first time at 33-all, and she deserves special mention for being the unsung hero of Mercer’s defense both in this game and all year long. She leads the Titans in steals and blocked shots and is second in rebounds, and her value as a tireless defender is far more important to them than the 4.6 points she averages.
- Hayley Spivey led Mercer with 25 points, followed by Leah Flora with 10. Devin Fothergill had 16 points for Southwestern, which had only four scorers, all with at least 10 points.
- The second game was every bit as one-sided as Monday’s nightcap in which Casey County clobbered East Jessamine, although Rockcastle’s margin of victory over Danville wasn’t nearly as large. The Lady Rockets dominated from the word go against a team that was both overmatched and underexperienced.
- This game should serve notice to all think the regional title will fall to the winner of the Casey-Lincoln County semifinal. Rockcastle is playing better than both of those teams right now. Danville coach Judie Mason said the same thing Tuesday that Casey’s Randy Salyers said after Rockcastle beat his team in the 47th District final: The Lady Rockets are playing as well as it has all year. And they’re in much the same position as they were in 2006, the last time the regional was at Lincoln, when Lincoln scratched out a semifinal win over Mercer, only to lose to Rockcastle in the final. Don’t ever be surprised by what Chrysti Noble and her teams can do in the postseason.
- Mason also was the latest to say that Rockcastle guard Sarah Rowe is the best player in the region, and I’ll second that. Her moves toward the basket are effortless, whether she’s shooting, passing or reaching for rebounds. Rowe had 24 points and 12 rebounds, and Sara Hammond had 17 rebounds. Tasha Milby led Danville with 14 points, and Xerces Simpson had 13.
- It’s southbound to Pulaski County for the start of the boys regional tonight. Lincoln County plays Southwestern at 6:30 p.m. and Pulaski plays East Jessamine at 8:30 p.m. Lincoln won at Southwestern 69-59 on Feb. 12 to drop the Warriors to 3-18. If the eight teams in this tourney were seeded, this would be the 1-vs.-8 game, but Southwestern’s shocking win over McCreary in a 48th District semifinal last week is enough to make some of the Lincoln faithful nervous. Southwestern defeated Lincoln 74-62 in the first game of the 2006 regional at Pulaski. Later that night, East Jessamine defeated Pulaski 81-71 in the only meeting between the two teams in the three seasons since East joined the 12th Region.
- The Other 15: Lexington Catholic defeated Scott County 64-55 in a battle of 11th Region powers. (And that probably won’t be the last time we’ll use the phrase “battle of 11th Region powers” this week.) … C’eira Ricketts of Fairdale, an Arkansas signee, had a quadruple-double with 21 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals in Fairdale’s 64-43 victory over Pleasure Ridge Park in the 6th Region. … Marion County had the best record in the 5th Region, but that record is frozen at 28-4 after a 59-55 loss to Hart County. … Boys plays began in the hotly contested 7th Region, where Eastern beat Male 58-48 and Jeffersontown edged duPont Manual 75-73 in two first-round games matching title contenders. Ballard and Seneca also won.