The postseason is a bad time to get the yips at the free-throw line, and Mercy Academy basketball coach Keith Baisch again had reason for concern in a Sixth Region Tournament quarterfinal.
The Jaguars were 10 of 20 from the charity stripe Thursday in a 54-48 loss to Bullitt East in the 24th District Tournament final, and on Monday they trailed host North Bullitt 25-24 at halftime after hitting just 5 of 14 free throws.
“I said, ‘We just have to relax and get up there and do what we do best,’” Baisch said of his halftime talk. “We shoot great free throws … but I think we let the emotion of the game get to us in the first half.”
Mercy found its range from 15 feet in the final two quarters, hitting 16 of 21 free throws to put away a pesky North Bullitt squad 61-55.
“Sometimes I think it’s just in our heads and we get nervous,” said senior guard Maria Schmitz, who was 5 for 6 from the line. “But we can all make free throws.”
Danielle Feldkamp (16 points, seven rebounds), Schmitz (14 points) and Jessica Laemmle (six points, eight assists, four rebounds) had big games as Mercy (21-11) – No. 8 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings – advanced to face Pleasure Ridge Park in Wednesday’s 6:30 p.m. regional semifinal at Valley.
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The focus of Mercy’s defense all night, Bellarmine University signee Katie Downey still hit 8 of 12 shots and scored 25 points to lead North Bullitt (23-7). Lauren Deel added 13 points, nine rebounds, five steals and four assists.
Eagles coach David Marion said Mercy’s size advantage was the difference, especially in the fourth quarter when the 6-foot-2 Feldkamp scored 10 of her points.
“We’ve had little trouble with size all year,” Marion said. “Obviously we’re not as big as they are. … We decided in the fourth quarter to play behind (Feldkamp) and try to make her make a move and beat us, and she hit some shots.”
North Bullitt struggled with turnovers early, falling behind 9-3, but eventually settled in and took the one-point halftime lead.
But Mercy put together a 21-9 run to take a 45-34 lead on Feldkamp’s free throw with 7:43 left in the game. Sadie Zeisloft, Maddie Woods and Schmitz all hit a 3-pointer during the run. Schmitz’s was her third of the game.
“When Maria is fresh, she can shoot the crap out of it,” Baisch said.
The Eagles answered with a 12-1 run, tying the score at 46 on a Downey basket with 4:27 left. But Feldkamp took over from there, scoring nine points during a 10-5 run that gave the Jaguars a 56-51 lead with 1:22 remaining.
Baisch said Feldkamp’s improvement has been one of the highlights of Mercy’s season.
“She was a beast,” Baisch said. “She’s one of the nicest kids in the world, and we try to get her to be a little mean on the court. … I hope we go a little further this year, but I also can’t wait to see what she can do as a junior.”
Deel’s free throw with 1:11 left pulled the Eagles within 56-52, but the Jaguars hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final 48 seconds to seal it.
Along with the free-throw shooting, Baisch said he was impressed with his team’s defense.
“The kids did a great job of communicating and making sure we were in the right spots at the right time,” Baisch said. “They hit some big shots, but I was proud of our kids for not backing down and caving into the pressure.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
MERCY 14 10 20 17 – 61
NORTH BULLITT 12 13 9 21 – 55
Mercy (21-11) – Feldkamp 16, Laemmle 6, M. Woods 5, Muss 4, J. Woods 7, Zeisloft 6, Schmitz 14, Reese 3.
North Bullitt (23-7) – Tompkins 4, Janes 1, Deel 13, Downey 25, Dolan 4, Sutherland 3, Free 5.
3-point goals – M. Woods, J. Woods, Zeisloft, Schmitz 3; Deel, Downey 2, Sutherland, Free.