The Marion County High School girls’ basketball team set out to make history this season, and it took another step toward that goal Tuesday night.
Patrice Tonge scored 22 points and Kyvin Goodin-Rogers added 14 points, eight rebounds and five steals as the Lady Knights beat host Mercy 64-46.
Marion County, No. 1 in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings and No. 6 nationally in the USA Today Super 25, finished its regular season 30-0 with an average margin of victory of 33.2 points.
The Lady Knights need nine postseason victories (two district, three region, four state) to become Kentucky’s first undefeated state champion since Marshall County finished 34-0 in the 1983-84 season.
Coach Trent Milby said his players first mentioned the goal of an undefeated season during last year’s postseason banquet.
“At the time I don’t know if I really believed it or not,” he said. “But once the season got going I knew we could do it. This team is a special team.”
Makayla Epps added 12 points and five steals for Marion County, which shot 52 percent (26 of 50). Epps and Goodin-Rogers both are University of Kentucky signees.
Erin Muthler scored 12 points to lead Mercy (15-10), which is No. 5 in the Litratings. The Jaguars will return to action next week in the 24th District Tournament at Fern Creek. Coach Mark Evans plans to have senior guards Kayla Richardson (hip flexor) and Mackenzie Stilger (Achilles) back by then.
Without them Tuesday, the Jaguars committed 22 turnovers and shot just 29.5 percent (13 of 44). Evans said he was disappointed with his team’s effort in the first half.
“I thought we stood back,” he said. “We didn’t really have that fight in the early part of the game when we could have taken advantage of some of (the Lady Knights’) nerves.”
Mercy led 8-5 before Marion County took control with a 15-2 run for a 20-10 lead early in the second quarter. With the Jaguars playing a box-and-one on Epps, Goodin-Rogers took advantage to score seven points during the spurt, and Tonge added four.
“Mercy came out and executed (the box-and-one) well, but Kyvin stepped up and Patrice stepped up, and they’ve both been in a slump,” Epps said. “Everybody stepped up when I was taken out of the game.”
Whitney Hartlage’s 3-pointer pulled Mercy within 22-17 at the 5:33 mark of the second quarter, but the Lady Knights answered with a 10-0 run. Eighth-grader Haeli Howard capped the surge with a 3-pointer to make it 32-17 with 2:37 left in the first half, and the Jaguars never got closer than eight the rest of the game.
“We stepped up to the challenge and played well tonight,” Milby said. “We just have to keep doing it every single night because we’re going to get the best shot from everybody else.”
Marion County will return to action Feb. 21 against Taylor County in the semifinals of the 20th District Tournament at Adair County.
Milby said the perfect regular-season record “means a lot, but we still have nine more to get. Our ultimate goal is to win the whole thing.”
Marion County (30-0) – Epps 12, Howard 7, Tonge 22, Burton 2, Calhoun 4, Powell 3, Goodin-Rogers 14.
Mercy (15-10) – White 2, Doherty 7, Stovall 2, Hartlage 6, Hodge 3, Bewley 4, Parr 4, Muthler 12, Martin 6.
3-point goals – Howard, Tonge 2, Goodin-Rogers; Hartlage, Hodge, Muthler 2.