LOUISVILLE - Trailing 27-8 late in the first half, the Bullitt East Lady Chargers appeared dead in their second-round meeting with Mercy in the 2011 Girls’ Louisville Invitational Tournament.
But in the second half the Lady Chargers showed a lot of life against the defending state champions and the second ranked team in the state this season. Bullitt East battled back to within six points late in the game and had a shot to get closer, but could not convert.
Mercy then went on to secure a 52-43 victory by hitting seven of eight free throws in the final 1:12 of the contest.
This has been a spirited rivalry between the two schools in the past. Bullitt East beat Mercy last season on a late basket in the Shooting for the Cure event at Cardinal Arena. Mercy went on to win the Louisville Invitational Tournament last year before capturing the state title.
Bullitt East just dug themselves too big a hole in the first half. Over the first 16 minutes the Lady Chargers converted just five of 20 shots and missed all eight of the three-pointers that they attempted.
“When you play Mercy you have to expect what we got,” Lady Charger head coach Chris Stallings said after the game at Male High School. “I thought our kids did a good job of growing up a little bit.
“It takes time to get used to what Mercy is doing,” the veteran coach added. “In the second half we did a nice job and we shot it a little better.”
Bullitt East did shoot 44.4 percent in the second half and for the game actually shot just a little better than the Jaguars (36 percent to 35 percent). Mercy did have a 36-32 rebounding edge and coach Mark Evans’ team made twice as many free throws (14 to 7).
The contest was held on Thursday at Male after being postponed a day because of bad weather. The game was also moved from Bellarmine to Male. Still, Bullitt East was able to get into the gym on Wednesday for a practice session.
The low water mark in terms of the score came late in the second quarter when Mercy surged ahead 27-8. Bullitt East then managed to battle back within 30-14 at halftime.
The Lady Chargers opened the second half with a 10-2 run, but during that surge 6-2 center Lindey Young went to the bench with her third and fourth fouls which came just ten seconds apart. Still, Mercy was ahead 39-28 heading into the fourth quarter.
Bullitt East kept battling and got within 41-34 on a lay-up by Meredith Polson with 4:33 to play. At the 4:14 mark, Young came back in the game but Mercy got a basket by Lauren Faris to take an 11-point advantage. Young answered for the Lady Chargers inside and then freshman Taylor Blain nailed a three-pointer at the 2:45 mark that made it 45-39.
Mercy then missed on the next possession and Bullitt East had more life. Twice the Lady Chargers got shots at the basket that just would not fall. At that point, Mercy opted to pull the ball out and tame time off the clock. Bullitt East was not yet in the bonus and it took time to get the foul count up to seven.
The Jaguars didn’t go to the line until the 1:12 mark and Faris made one of her two shots. Bullitt East could not convert at the other end and then had to start fouling and sending Mercy to the line. The state-power then made six straight foul shots to keep Bullitt East at bay.
“Our kids are just starting to learn that we’re not here just to play the game,” Stallings said. “We were here to win. We had the shot when we were down six and it just didn’t go down.”
While the goal was certainly a win, the second half play against one of the state’ elite programs will be a big confidence boost for the Lady Chargers heading into the last month of the regular season.
“I told the girls that after the game,” Stallings said. “But we’re not a finished product. They know that. We’ll have to go back to the gym and keep working to get a little better.”
Bullitt East got 14 points and seven rebounds from Young who was limited to just 16 minutes of game time because of the fouls. Polson added 13 points and seven rebounds.
Mercy got 14 points from Faris, the National Guard Player of the Game. The Jaguars also got 12 points from Julliann Miller as well as nine rebounds from Emily Goetz.
Bullitt East will be back in action with a pair of 24th District games this week. On Tuesday, the red and gold will be at home against Fairdale and will then travel to Shepherdsville on Friday for the big game that will decide the number one seed in the post-season district tournament when they take on Bullitt Central. The district tournament will be held the final week in February at Bullitt Central.
At Male High School
BULLITT EAST 43 (6-8-14-15) Emily Fryman 2, Ashley Duvall 2, Nikole Isabel 5, Whitney Stansbury 2, Taylor Blain 5, Meredith Polson 13, Lindey Young 14.
MERCY 52 (15-15-9-13) Faris 14, Goetz 8, Hartlage 2, Co. Roush 8, Ch. Roush 6, Miller 12, Dircksen 2.