High School Basketball

Last year’s runner-up heads home after thriller between Sweet Sixteen contenders

Mercy’s Jaylyn Porter battled for the loose ball against GRC’s Kennedy Igo Wednesday during the KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen at Rupp Arena in Lexington.
Mercy’s Jaylyn Porter battled for the loose ball against GRC’s Kennedy Igo Wednesday during the KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen at Rupp Arena in Lexington.

Hayley Harrison and Clark County finally found the shooting touch in Rupp Arena in the second half and outlasted Mercy in a 65-64 first-round shootout Wednesday in the 58th KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen.

BOX SCORE: Clark County 65, Mercy Academy 64

In a game that had 17 three-pointers, Harrison made three of them and Brianna Banks added another in the third as the Cardinals turned a 27-21 halftime deficit into a 46-41 advantage at the final scheduled break.

The Jaguars did not go away, however, as both teams traded haymakers in a game that wasn’t decided until the final seconds.

“It was frustrating to give up some of those open threes, but we were glad to see some go in on our offensive end,” Clark Coach Robbie Graham said. “It was a very frustrating first half ... In the second half, making shots put a little pep in our step and our defense got better ... We knew it was going to be a 32-minute, blow-for-blow battle.”

Mercy shrugged off Clark’s third-quarter surge with back-to-back threes from Regan Berger and Hope Sivori to cut the lead to 48-47 with 6:39 to go. Clark responded with six unanswered, capped by Tyra Flowers’ fast-break layup that put the Cardinals up 54-47 with 4:42 left and prompting a Mercy timeout.

Without star playmaker Kennedy Igo, who fouled out midway through the fourth, Clark struggled to break Mercy’s press and the Jaguars scrambled closer. A Sivori layup at 1:19 cut Clark’s lead to 63-60. A Harrison offensive foul on the subsequent inbounds led to another Sivori layup attempt that netted foul shots and trimmed Clark’s lead to 63-62 at 1:02.

Clark broke the next press, but couldn’t control an offensive rebound resulting in a jump ball that gave Mercy possession down one with under a minute to go. Mercy got a loose ball off Sidney Shephard’s blocked three-pointer and called timeout with 33 seconds left.

But Clark’s Harrison got a deflection as Mercy tried to set up a final play and Jasmine Flowers got fouled after securing the loose ball. She made both free throws to make it 65-62 with 22 seconds left.

A quick basket by Jaylen Shorter cut it to 65-64 and Mercy fouled with seven seconds left. Wilson missed the front-end of a one-and-one, forcing Mercy to go the length of the floor with no timeouts; Sivori’s heave at the backboard bounced wide as time expired.

“I can’t say we deserved to win that game as I told my kids in the locker room, but we fought hard enough where we had that chance,” Mercy Coach Keith Baisch said. “I’m proud of our kids. There was a time (Clark) went on a nice little run and we could have folded. We did a nice job stepping up.”

Igo led Clark with 14 points. Shelbi Wilson and Brianna Byars added 12 each. Sivori led Mercy with a game-high 29 points, which included six three-pointers. Regan Berger added 14 and Jenks had 10.