Mercer County was frigid from three-point range at the start of its state-tournament opener against Boyd County, though one wouldn’t have noticed if he saw only the final box score.
The Titans finished of 14-of-28 from downtown, breaking the previous tournament record for makes in a game, and shot 55 percent for the game to overtake the Lions, 78-50, in the first round of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen Wednesday night at BB&T Arena.
Box score: Mercer County 78, Boyd County 50
Mercer County’s 14 threes were three more than the 11 made by Clark County in the 2014 semifinals against Elizabethtown and by Clinton County in the 2005 finals against Lexington Catholic. Each of the prior record-holders lost their games.
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Seygan Robins had 25 points, eight assists and four rebounds to lead Mercer County. She was 5-for-8 from beyond the arc on her own, the 20th time a girls’ player made at least five triples in a tournament game (the record is eight).
“That doesn’t shock me,” Mercer County Coach Chris Souder said of breaking the record. “They all got the green light.”
In the first half, though, the three-pointers were not high-quality. “They were too quick and too deep,” said Souder, leading to a 4-for-15 mark from long distance in the opening 16 minutes.
“We shot 15 threes in the first half, which is not uncharacteristic, but they were quick threes,” Souder said. “So we wanted to attack a little bit more. We did much better in the second half, and that came from our energy and our defense.”
That played into the hands of Boyd County, which also likes to take a lot of three-pointers (the Lions averaged 21 attempts entering the tournament) but realized it couldn’t win a running match with Mercer County.
“We knew that if we tried to do that with ’em we’d probably end up on the end that we eventually ended up on, so we tried to control tempo in the first half, and I think we were able to do that,” Boyd County Coach Pete Fraley said. “The fact that they missed some shots, that helped too.”
Boyd County pulled to within one point of the Titans after Savannah Wheeler connected on a three-pointer with about 30 seconds left in the first half. Mercer County opened the third with a much-more-methodical approach on offense, helping it rip off a 14-3 run to take a double-digit lead and control of the game.
“In the second half, they sped us up, and when their shots started falling it put us in a hole,” Fraley said. “… They’re a nice team. I wouldn’t be surprised to find them here Saturday night or Sunday afternoon in the finals.”
Wheeler, a sophomore who’s committed to Marshall University, led the Lions with 22 points.
Emmy Souder had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Titans, who will face the winner of Wednesday’s late game – either Clark County or Harlan – in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Girls’ Sweet Sixteen
At Northern Kentucky University
Butler 50, Sacred Heart 36
Murray 71, Nelson Co. 30
Mercer Co. 78, Boyd Co. 50
Clark Co. vs. Harlan, (n)
Noon: Henderson Co. vs. Knott Co. Central
1:30 p.m.: Franklin Co. vs. Russell Co.
6:30 p.m.: Simon Kenton vs. Paintsville
8 p.m.: Holmes vs. Grayson Co.