Martin propelled the Jags, the No. 12 team in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, from the start. She hit her first four shots, including two 3-pointers, as part of a 14-2 run for Mercy (23-7), which jumped out to a 16-5 lead just seven minutes into the game.
The hot start somewhat surprised the 6-foot senior forward because she said she wasn’t shooting well in pregame warmups.
Martin was just as big for Mercy down the stretch as well. Bullitt East started the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run to cut the Jaguars’ advantage to 46-40 with less than five minutes remaining. The Chargers had a chance to narrow the margin even more, but Martin came up with one of her three blocked shots. Mercy got the rebound, and it led to Martin’s third three-pointer of the night to make it a nine-point game with 4:19 left.
Mercy secured the game at the free throw as they made 13 of 15 free throws in the final 3:06.
Coach Keith Baisch noted that Martin’s defense means as much to the team as her scoring.
“Even when she doesn’t score she’s big for us because she does a lot of other things, like the blocks,” he said. “It’s just not always about the offense for Malerie.”
Hannah Bewley added 17 points for Mercy, and Jessica Laemmle pitched in 14. Combined with Martin, the trio made 23 of 25 free throws.
Sixth Region Player of the Year Lindsey Duvall led the No. 20 Chargers (20-8) with 24 points. She scored 13 in the second quarter as Bullitt East rallied. They used a 9-0 run to cut Mercy’s lead to 16-14 with six minutes remaining in the first half, but they wouldn’t draw closer the rest of the way.
After starting the season 1-4, Bullitt East has been one of the hottest teams in the Louisville area. Since January, the Chargers have a 12-3 record, but Mercy has accounted for all three losses. Coincidentally, Mercy beat Bullitt East by the same score in the Louisville Invitational Tournament on Jan. 28 and won 64-53 eight days earlier in Mount Washington.
“Hopefully we get to play them again,” Bullitt East coach Chris Stallings said.
Both teams will advance to next week’s regional tournament. The draw for that will take place Saturday.
With the district title in hand, Martin has one more goal: a return to the Sweet 16. After injuring her knee in last year’s regional final, getting back to the state tournament has been important for her.
“We’re going to make it to state, and we’re going to do what we can while we’re there,” she said.
Bullitt East (20-8) – Love 3, Williams 11, Henn 10, Peak 1, Scott 3, Duvall 24, Higdon 2.
Mercy (23-7) – Schmitz 4, Woods 3, Bewley 17, Laemmle 14, Martin 26.
3-point goals – Love, Scott, Duvall, Woods, Bewley, Laemmle 2, Martin 3.