The highly anticipated matchup between Kentucky’s top two girls’ high school basketball teams ended up being no contest.
Host Butler, the No. 2 team in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, took a lead early thanks to a 16-0 first quarter run and never looked back in walloping top-ranked Mercer County 80-55 Saturday night.
Butler coach Larry Just said he wanted his girls to come out and throw the first punch. They did that and more as they never trailed in the contest. The first quarter run, which took place over a 4:22 stretch, enabled the Bearettes to take a 25-8 lead in the waning seconds of the opening quarter.
The Bearettes (14-1) dominated inside and used the Titans (10-4) up-tempo style against them to cruise to an easy victory. They shot 61.3 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Titans 43-28.
“I thought our kids did a great job of attacking early on and made some shots,” said Just. “We got some easy shots. Defensively, I thought we did a really nice job of defending without fouling.”
Molly Lockhart, who entered Saturday averaging 10.1 points a game, put up 13 in the first half, leading a Bearettes attack that made 23-of-34 baskets (67.6 percent) in the first 16 minutes alone. Her layup with 4:37 left in the half gave Butler a 37-17 lead, and the advantage never dipped below 20 points the rest of the way.
But the 6-3 junior center said it was the team’s approach on defense that allowed them to dominate. The Titans made shot just 8-of-31 (25.8 percent) and committed 12 of its 19 turnovers in the opening half.
“We knew we had just had to lock down and that would make the victory possible,” said Lockhart, who finished with 21 points on 10-of-12 shooting, while grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking four shots – all game highs.
Indiana commit Jaelynn Penn added 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting and 10 rebounds for Butler, which also got 14 points and six assists from Teri Goodlett.
Mercer County’s Seygan Robins, one of the state’s top juniors, struggled against the No. 2 team in the state. The University of Louisville commit, playing in front of Cardinals coach Jeff Walz Saturday, finished with 13 points on 4-of-15 shooting and made just one of eight 3-point attempts. The Bearettes also made sure the 5-foot-9 guard did not contribute in other ways as she finished with just a rebound, a steal and two assists while playing the entire 32 minutes.
Lyric Houston and Emmy Souder also finished with 13 points each for the Titans.
Mercer County coach Chris Souder credited Butler for approaching the game as an elite team should, which is something he said his team did not do. Now, he hopes his team can learn from this and build for the postseason.
“They exposed every weakness we had tonight,” coach Souder said. “So, if it helps us in March, I’ll take a butt-whipping tonight.”