Sometimes final scores can be deceiving. The McCracken County girls basketball team’s 69-49 loss to visiting Louisville Mercy on Friday was perhaps one of those times.
“When someone sees this score, they’ll think it was a blowout from the get-go. But this game was not a 20-point type of game,” Lady Mustangs head coach Scott Sivills said. “It was a really good quality girls high school basketball game. But we had a four- or five-minute spurt there in the third quarter where we just couldn’t make a darn shot.”
Actually, the Lady Mustangs (6-4) went nearly six minutes without scoring in that third quarter as the Lady Jaguars (7-8) put together a 20-0 run that essentially put the game out of reach. A layup from junior Shymiya Daye brought the Lady Mustangs within one, 36-35, with 5:47 left in the third period, but they didn’t score again until freshman Claire Johnson drained a 3-pointer to beat the end-of-quarter buzzer. By then, they trailed 56-38 en route to the 20-point defeat.
Sivills cited fatigue as the biggest factor in his team turning a one-point halftime lead into an 18-point deficit over eight minutes of play.
“I could tell our legs were going (away) there at the end of the second quarter. At halftime, we said, ‘Girls, we have not been in the gym very much because of weather and stuff. We have to find a way to just get through the first four minutes of the third quarter,’” Sivills said. “I was trying to use timeouts to give our kids some rest. But commend them (Mercy) — they made shots, and we didn’t. It was an uphill battle after that.”
Following the layup from Daye, Mercy’s Emma Barnett and Samantha Crippin made back-to-back 3-pointers, and Barnett followed with an and-1 for a 9-0 run that gave the Lady Jaguars a 10-point lead. Two-point shots from Amy Thompson and Mariah Knight were followed by 3-pointers from Knight and Kylie Price that bookended a free throw from Barnett to culminate the 20-0 run prior to Johnson’s buzzer-beating triple.
“We needed to stop the bleeding, and we didn’t do a very good job of doing that,” Sivills said. “If we could’ve stopped that 9-0 run, it may have been a different ballgame. We just didn’t have our legs in the second half.”
The Lady Jaguars’ four 3-pointers in that scoring run were part of the 10 they made in the game.
“They spread us out in transition and got their guards in both corners,” Sivills said. “They put a lot of pressure on our bigs to get back (on defense), and when we tried to help, they kicked it out and made shots.”
The Lady Mustangs made four 3-pointers, three of which came from Johnson. Her buzzer-beating trey to end the first quarter tied the score at 15, and McCracken led four times in a back-and-forth second period, including the 28-27 edge it took into the halftime break.
Despite faltering in the third quarter, the Lady Mustangs put forth an effort that their coach was proud of.
“I commend our girls for their competitiveness tonight,” Sivills said. “They played four hard quarters and didn’t give up.”
Johnson led the way with a game-high 17 points while providing plenty of tenacity on defense.
“She was able to get her hands on a lot of balls tonight, and she got a lot of steals that she converted into layups. That’s the type of player Claire is. She’s all over the floor,” Sivills said. “She’s a major catalyst for us. For us to have a chance to win against quality teams going forward, she has to play well, and I thought she played well tonight.”
Junior Haidyn Green added nine points to go with eight from freshman Mikee Buchanan and six from sophomore Caroline Sivills.
Mary Smith led Mercy in scoring with 14 points. She was joined in double figures by Barnett (12 points) and Price (11).
While the 20-point loss looks bad on the ledger, Sivills said Friday’s game offered the type of challenge that should prepare the Lady Mustangs well for the postseason.
“Going forward for our program, this is a good game for us. Their record is no indication of how good they really are. They’ve played some of the top teams in the state over the past month,” he said. “It’s about us getting better for March. This was a good quality game that will help us going into March because they’re just like Graves and Marshall County. So this was a good experience for us.”
Mercy 15 12 29 13 — 69
McCracken 15 13 10 11 — 49
Mercy: Smith 14, Barnett 12, Price 11, Thompson 9, Knight 7, Crippin 6, White 6, Cash 2, Kaelin 2.
McCracken: Johnson 17, Green 9, Buchanan 8, Sivills 6, Bufford 3, Cruse 3, Daye 2, Holdman 1.