It’s a play called “Red,” and it turned to gold for the Mercy Academy basketball team.
Malerie Martin drove to the basket and scored with 40 seconds left to give Mercy the lead and spark an 8-0 game-ending run that gave the Jaguars a 64-56 victory over upstart North Bullitt on Thursday in a Sixth Region Tournament semifinal at Valley.
With the score tied at 56, North Bullitt committed a turnover with 56.8 seconds left. Martin got the ball at the top of the key, drove the left side of the lane and made a left-handed layup to give the Jaguars a 58-56 edge.
“I just drive and try to get the foul or score,” Martin said of the “Red” play. “Either way I’m OK with it. It’s a play for me, and I try to do the best I can with it.”
Hannah Bewley scored 24 points while playing all 32 minutes and Martin added 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists as Mercy (17-13) advanced to face Butler (27-3) in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. regional final.
The Jaguars are in a regional final for the fifth straight season, having gone 2-2 in the previous four.
“We’re starting to grow up and mature a little bit,” Mercy coach Keith Baisch said. “Hopefully we can mature a little more for one more game and get to (the state tournament).”
Katie Downey scored 16 points and Lauren Deel added 12 points and six rebounds for North Bullitt (22-8), which had beaten Pleasure Ridge Park 63-57 in overtime Tuesday for its first-ever regional tournament victory.
The Lady Eagles led by 10 points late in the first half but shot just 25 percent (6 of 24) in the second half as Mercy rallied.
“It wasn’t in the cards for us tonight, but I can’t fault the effort,” North Bullitt coach Amber Courtney said. “They showed they belonged here, and they never quit.”
Savannah Morrison’s basket gave North Bullitt a 37-32 lead with 4:05 left in the third quarter, but Mercy scored 11 in a row and took a 43-37 lead on Maria Schmitz’s 3-point play with 13 seconds remaining.
The Lady Eagles fought back for a 54-53 lead on Deel’s two free throws with 3:15 left in the fourth quarter, but Katherine Gross banked in a 3-pointer for her only points of the game to give Mercy a 56-54 edge with 3:00 remaining.
Rachel Badgett scored to tie the game with 2:31 left, but they were North Bullitt’s final points of the game.
After her go-ahead basket, Martin sank four free throws and Bewley hit two more for the final margin.
Baisch said Martin was the key in the final minutes.
“I keep telling everybody that she’s one of the best in the state when she comes to play,” Baisch said. “When the game’s on the line, she’s learning to want that ball. She’s growing into that role where she wants to be the one who takes that shot.”