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JEFFERSONTOWN – It was raining three-pointers on the Bullitt East Lady Chargers Thursday night in the championship game of the 24th District Tournament and there was nothing the red and gold could do about it.
In a showdown between two of the best teams in the state, the Mercy Jaguars connected on half of the 20 three-pointers they took in the game including four straight from beyond the arc in a three minute span midway through the third quarter.
That hot-shooting, along with 30 points from 6-foot junior Malerie Martin, propelled Mercy to its third consecutive 24th District title as they pulled away late to win 66-59. In each of those three previous tourney titles, Mercy beat Bullitt East.
In the regular season meeting, Bullitt East had rolled past the Jaguars 63-38, but Martin did not play in that contest.
On Thursday, the Lady Chargers often had the defense in the right position, but Mercy just made tough shots.
“She was a huge difference maker tonight,” Bullitt East head coach Chris Stallings said of Martin being on the court. “She played huge. She hit some big shots. A few times we defended her pretty well and she still made the shots.
“I thought Mercy played a whale of a game,” the coach added. “They shot it better than we had seen them shoot it and we had seen them a lot.”
While Bullitt East still had a chance late in the game, it was 12-2 run midway through the third quarter that changed the complexion of the game. The Lady Chargers led 18-14 after one quarter and still were on top 34-30 at halftime. When Lindsey Duvall scored to open the third quarter, the red and gold were up by six points.
The lead for Bullitt East was 37-36 when junior Hannah Bewley hit the first of two consecutive three-pointers that put Mercy ahead. After Raegan Williams scored for the Lady Chargers, Mercy hit two more three-pointers, by Martin and Kathryn Gross to go up 45-39. Bullitt East did manage to score late, including a three-pointer by Kaleigh Sharpe and they only trailed 47-46 heading into the fourth quarter.
The last time Bullitt East had the lead came when Courtney Pfister scored to open the final frame. A basket by Duvall at the 4:37 mark made it 50-50, the last time the score would be tied.
Martin who hit on ten straight free throws in the fourth quarter, hit four free throws over the next 90 seconds before Mackenzie Bass scored for the Lady Chargers. The final dagger came when Martin nailed a three-pointer to make it 57-52. Duvall scored for Bullitt East but then Bewley hit two free throws.
Bullitt East turned up the defensive pressure and forced some steals, but twice they missed lay-ups and another time Duvall was called for a charge. Still, when senior Emily Fryman drilled a three-pointer, the only one the Lady Chargers had in the second half, it was 62-59. However, Martin hit four more free throws in the final 22 seconds to seal the win.
“We didn’t come out of the locker room (at halftime) very focused,” Stallings said. “As for being a veteran team (Mercy does not have any seniors) we didn’t start well in the second half.
“Eventually, I thought we dug in,” Stallings said. “Coming out there we just weren’t as focused as we needed to be.”
A couple of conversions off turnovers late in the game and the outcome could have been different.
“At this stage there were one or two missed shots and one or two offensive rebounds we didn’t get,” Stallings said. “Those are the difference in winning or losing the game. It was just the combination of a few little things.”
The two teams each had 16 rebounds in the first half, but Mercy finished with a 35-29 edge on the glass.
“I tell the kids we have to outrebound teams,” Stallings said of a point he had made after the semi-final win. “If we do that, we have a good chance of winning. That’s another of those little things.”
Thursday Night Final
MERCY 66 (14-16-16-19) Schmitz 5, Woods 4, Bewley 13, Anderson 5, Laemmle 2, Gross 7, Martin 30.
BULLITT EAST 59 (18-16-12-13) Emily Fryman 6, Courtney Pfister 6, Lindsey Duvall 14, Kaleigh Sharpe 3, Alyssa Peak 4, Taylor Blain 10, Mackenzie Bass 10, Raegen Willams 6.
There was no suspense in the first semi-final of the Girls’ 24th District Tournament as Bullitt East raced out to 32-7 lead over Fern Creek in the first quarter and then coasted to an 82-29 victory.
Bullitt East could pretty much press at will as Fern Creek started an eighth-grade point guard. That led to numerous turnovers that the Lady Chargers turned into easy points. Most of the lay-ups were converted by Duvall as she scored 16 points in the first quarter along.
For the game, despite a running clock for the final 12 minutes, Bullitt East had 11 different players score. Duvall led the way with 22 points while off the bench Kaleigh Sharpe had 13 points while Kirstie Henn had 11.
Shelbi Knauer had 18 points for Fern Creek, but the rest of the team scored 11 points.
FERN CREEK 29 (7-9-9-2) Makendo 6, Anthony 2, Knauer 18, Ledo 3.
BULLITT EAST 82 (32-18-18-14) Emily Fryman 4, Courtney Pfister 7, Lindsey Duvall 22, Kaleigh Sharpe 13, Alyssa Peak 1, Megan Marksbury 3, Kirstie Henn 11, Taylor Blain 6, Raegan Williams 8, Kelli Lutes 3, Shelby Flener 4.