The No. 1 and No. 2 girls’ basketball teams faced off Saturday night in Louisville, but only one played with the intensity warranted by such a matchup.
Butler, rated No. 1 in the season’s first Cantrall Ratings released last week, dominated Mercer County, 80-55, on its home court. Molly Lockhart had game highs with 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Bearettes, who have won 14 straight games since dropping their season opener to Male.
Mercer County shot 45 percent from the field but was five of 30 from behind the three-point line as a team. Seygan Robins, a junior who’s committed to the University of Louisville, and senior Lyric Houston led the Titans with 13 points apiece.
Titans Coach Chris Souder was apologetic about his team’s performance against Butler, which has won two of the last three state championships and boasts a likely Miss Basketball candidate in Jaelynn Penn, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
“We were just not competitive tonight,” Souder said. “Butler took it to us. They played like the defending state champ and we played like we’ve never been here before. That’s what I’m most disappointed about.”
Butler never trailed. Mercer County clawed to within 9-8 early in the first quarter on a three-pointer by Emma Souder; Butler went on a 16-0 run from there and kept pouring it on in the second half.
“From the opening tip, we didn’t compete,” Souder said. “Against good teams like this, you’ve gotta bring it.”
Mercer County went 5-2 in seven games between Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, Ariz., and the Pink and White Lady Classic in Springfield, Mo., at the end of December. It dug itself into some early holes during some of those holiday game and recovered.
Souder reminded his team of those woes ahead of Saturday.
“‘You’re not gonna be able do this against this team,’” Souder said. “ … I’m don’t want to say we’re not working hard, but we just didn’t compete tonight.”
Coach Larry Just said Butler “without question” played its best first half of the season against a quality opponent.
“We felt like they were going to come out aggressive,” Just said. “We needed to come out a little more aggressive. I thought our kids did a great job of attacking early on.
Just was pleased with his team’s decision-making, especially in the open floor, against the Titans. Girls often passed up open looks for better open looks, with Lockhart frequently the beneficiary of the quick ball movement.
“Molly creates a lot of different problems being 6-3 and long,” Just said. “She rebounds a lot of things around the basket and alters a lot of things. … It just kind of gets in your head as a shooter.”
Three other Bearettes finished in double-figure scoring — Teri Goodlett (14), Bre Torrens (12) and Tasia Jeffries (11).
The Titans lost twice to Butler last season, 92-79 at home and 63-51 in the Louisville Invitational Tournament. The teams could meet in the LIT finals on Saturday, Jan. 28.
Butler 80, Mercer County 55
Mercer Co. (10-4) — Robins 13, F. Lake 7, L. Lake 5, Houston 13, Souder 12, Davis 4, Yeast 1.
Butler (14-1) — Torrens 12, Jeffries 11, Cain 2, Just 6, Marshall 2, Penn 12, Goodlett 14, Lockhart 21.