Jessica Laemmle had 16 points and Hannah Bewley hit four of her team’s 10 3-pointers to help the Jaguars hold off Bullitt East 61-54 in the championship game of the Sixth Region Tournament at Valley High School — Mercy’s fourth win in four tries over the Chargers this season.
The Jaguars (26-7) won their first regional title since 2013 and ninth all-time, punching their ticket to the KHSAA Girls Sweet 16 this week in Bowling Green. They’ll play Seventh Region champion Male, which beat Eastern 62-45, in an all-Louisville first-round game at 2:30 p.m EDT Wednesday at E.A. Diddle Arena.
“It’s so amazing,” Laemmle said. “It’s what we’ve been working our whole lives for, and it’s just the best feeling in the world, but we’re not done yet, and that’s the big thing.”
It’s the first regional title for second-year Mercy coach Keith Baisch, a former longtime assistant under Mark Evans, who stepped down after 2013 and now assists Baisch. Mercy triumphed while playing in a regional final for the sixth straight year.
Baisch was nervous to see Bullitt East make it to the championship game, knowing the tall challenge of beating the same team four times in one season. The Jaguars previously posted wins of 64-53, 64-54 and 64-54.
“It’s extremely difficult,” Baisch said. “Bullitt East, (coach) Chris (Stallings), his staff and their players do a terrific job. … With (Lindsey) Duvall, she’s one of the best players in the state, and I have so much respect for their program.
“So it definitely made me nervous because I know what they’re capable of and how tough they are, and they play the same way we do. … But also knowing that we can beat them helped out as well.”
Bewley, a senior, bounced back from a 2-of-10 shooting performance in Saturday’s semifinal win over Pleasure Ridge Park to make all five of her shots, including 4 of 4 from beyond the arc, and finish with 14 points on Sunday.
“After our game (Saturday) I was ready to start hitting shots because I had a rough day,” she said, wearing the championship net around her neck. “So I knew I had to play my game, settle down and relax.”
Mercy’s hot shooting helped put Bullitt East in permanent catch-up mode. The Jaguars made five 3s in the first quarter and three in the second to charge ahead by 12 at one point and by seven at halftime.
Mercy scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to take its biggest lead at 49-35, but Bullitt East chipped away in the closing minutes. The Lady Chargers pulled within 57-54 on Kirstie Henn’s corner 3 with 30 seconds left.
But Mercy’s Mackenzie Stovall and Laemmle each hit a pair of free throws in the final 20 seconds to seal it. Laemmle finished 6 of 8 at the foul line.
“I was thinking I’m going to knock these free throws down for my team, and we’re going to be headed to Bowling Green,” she said. “I knew I was going to make them.”
Duvall led Bullitt East with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Henn scored 11, and Raegan Williams had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Bullitt East started four sophomores and a freshman – perhaps a disadvantage against a Mercy team that’s had multiple players participate in deep playoff runs — but the Chargers’ youth is the foundation for what could be a bright future.
“This group of kids doesn’t quit. I was real proud of my kids and how hard they fought,” Stallings said. “… I felt like Mercy was probably more experienced in this situation … and at times, I thought that showed.”
Bullitt East (22-9) – Duvall 19, Henn 11, Williams 10, Higdon 1, Scott 6, Peak 7.
Mercy (26-7) – Laemmle 16, Bewley 14, Schmitz 11, Woods 8, Kiesel 7, Stovall 3, Martin 2.
3-point goals – Duvall 2, Peak, Henn; Bewley 4, Woods 2, Kiesel 2, Laemmle 2.
Dr. Rudy J. Ellis Sports Medicine Sixth Region All-Tournament Team: Jana Lewis, Butler; Latoria Higgins, Western; Shelby Fleener, Bullitt Central; Olivia Morabito, Holy Cross; Katie Downey, North Bullitt; Leslie Fries, PRP; Alyssa Peak, Bullitt East; Lindsey Duvall, Bullitt East; Hannah Bewley, Mercy; Jessica Laemmle, Mercy; Malerie Martin, Mercy.