Whitney Hartlage scored 24 points Thursday night as visiting and third-rated Mercy came from behind to edge No. 19 Dunbar 55-52.
Both teams came off holiday-tournament two-game losing streaks — Mercy at Florida and Dunbar at Montgomery County — and missing a key player.
Dunbar (7-6) was again without Jordin Fender, rated by coaches as one of the top 25 players in the state.
Coming off an ACL injury, Fender was medically cleared to play Thursday. She went through team warmups for the first time, but did not play.
"Jordin has been working very hard," Coach Sarah Bridenbaugh said. "When she's back, she'll be back. But I have no date, no time. It just depends on her rehab right now."
Mercy (9-3) played minus Mackenzie Stovall, its first post player off the bench. She was out with the flu.
"We beat a good team. I know they'll be even better when their kid (Fender) gets back," Mercy Coach Mark Evans said. "I was really proud of our kids to be quite honest."
Malerie Martin, a sophomore, backed Hartlage with 10 points.
Lexus Edwards, a 5-foot-8 senior, led Dunbar with 21 points, 17 in the first half.
"When Lexus has got a hot hand, we've got to continue to put the other kids around her," Bridenbaugh said.
Shakeema Jackson added 10 before fouling out.
Kierra Muhammad, a 5-4 senior who complements Fender, scored seven points, giving her 1,004 in her career.
Dunbar led 22-16 after one quarter and 33-27 at halftime.
Mercy didn't lead until Martin hit a 14-footer to close the third quarter at 46-44.
Lakeena Parks' bucket and a three-pointer by Jackson gave Dunbar a 5-0 start to the fourth quarter and a 49-46 lead.
Mercy outscored the Bulldogs 9-3 the rest of the way, though, taking the lead for good at 52-51 on Martin's hoop with 2:46 left.
"They closed the game well when we didn't," Bridenbaugh said. "We had some key turnovers and missed free throws. Mercy, give them credit, they came up with big possessions at the time they needed to."
After Martin's go-ahead score, Dunbar committed the second of three consecutive turnovers. The Bulldogs finished with 15 errors, six in the fourth quarter.
"We were doing well early with the traps, but I think when we lost our other guard (Jackson, with 6:21 left) that hurt us a little bit as far as taking care of the basketball," Bridenbaugh said. "We've just got to continue for everybody to learn how to get through those traps. It's a building process."
Mercy's Victoria Dircksen made one of two free throws at 2:30, and Dunbar's Brooke Todd did likewise at 1:36.
The Jaguars were able to hold the ball until 11 seconds remained. Kayla Richardson, who tallied eight points, made two free throws.
After Dunbar got the ball in the frontcourt and called time with 8.4 seconds left, a scramble ensued. Muhammad came away with the ball, but her off-balance three-point attempt was off the mark, just ahead of the buzzer.
"They blew through our presses (early). I felt like we kind of gutted it out, hung in there. And in the end, I think we were able to play pretty good defense," Evans said. "I think we turned them over quite a few times in our half-court with some half-court 'man' trapping, and that was really the difference."
Mercy finished 17-for-24 at the free-throw line to Dunbar's 10-for-15.
MERCY 55, DUNBAR 52
MERCY (9-3) — Doherty 3, Dircksen 7, Hartlage 24, Richardson 8, Martin 10, Stilger 3.
DUNBAR (7-6) — Muhammad 7, Jackson 10, Edwards 21, Todd 5, Parks 7, Ighadaro 2.
Mercy 16 11 19 9—55
Dunbar 22 11 11 8—52
Three-point goals — M 4 (Hartlage 4), D 4 (Jackson 2, Edwards 2).
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229 Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com