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Anderson County's formula for girls' basketball success has been relatively simple in the current season: threes, frees and D.
When the Lady Bearcats get all three going at the same time? They become a relentless machine bent on destruction.
That Mercy Academy out of Louisville did not finally give in until the second half of the Lady Bearcats' 70-50 romp Friday night was probably a testament to the Jaguars taking on a schedule that Anderson coach Tony Kays said “might be the only one in the state tougher than ours.”
Even that did not help the Jaguars Friday night as the Lady Bearcats blistered the nets from long range with a passion that seemed to be bent on generating enough heat to melt the snow and ice outside. While that didn't happen, it was more than enough to melt Mercy, considered one of the best teams in the state despite what is now a 10-11 record.
Anderson got the threes, 12 of them, in fact. The Lady Bearcats hit 9-of-12 in the first half, then cooled off a bit in the final 16 minutes but still hit on 12-of-23 for the game. The Lady Bearcats connected on 20-of-26 free throws. It was a night that saw Anderson lead 38-25 at the half despite not having a single two-point field goal.
The Lady Bearcats hit 11-of-12 free throws in the first half.
Eriel McKee led all scorers with 25 points, including a pair of threes and hitting 9-of-12 at the charity stripe. Makenzie Cann followed with 15 points and five assists, matching McKee's total in the latter category.
“In the first half, we had nine assists,” Kays said. “We were driving into the lane and kicking it out to the open shooter. I was pleased with how the kids moved the ball around.”
Anderson finished with 16 assists, including a picture perfect pass from McKee to cann to complete a fast break in the second half. “We have that play, but the kids have to recognize it,” Kays said. “Most of that comes from Kenzie and Eriel playing together for so long.”
Kays said the Miss Basketball finalists have taken their game up a notch. “Ever since Christmas, Eriel has elevated her game and it has been hard to do because we have been so out of sync because of the weather, but she has improved every part of her game, including her stamina.
“Kenzie was really sick, but she is finally back to her self.”
Junior Corrin Robinson came off the bench to tally 11 points, including three long-bombs, and snared five rebounds despite her 5-foot-4-inch frame.
Meanwhile, the Anderson defense totally disrupted anything Mercy tried to accomplish. Senior Alex Avritt drew the main task of stopping Mercy standout Malarie Martin, who finished with only 10 points. Elizabeth Anderson and Hannah Bewley each scored 10 points for Mercy as well.
“Alex was solid and played steady. Played within her game,” Kays said. “Corrin came in and played well. She hit some shots, got some rebounds and loose balls.”
Still, Mercy hung around, trailing only 43-35 late in the third quarter but a quick 8-1 Anderson spurt pushed the Lady Bearcat lead to 51-36 at the final quarter break. By the time Kays had taken all of his starters out, Anderson led 68-40.
This was against a team that had beaten some of Kentucky's top teams, including top-ranked Elizabethtown, and is considered a serious contender for the Seventh Region championship.
“We tried to play physical. As a team we played physical,” Avritt said. “We knew Mercy had a lot of ability. We came out intense.”
Kays said his team put back to back strong nights together.
“Last night (against Shelby County) the kids came out with a lot of energy. Then tonight what I was most proud of, we matched their physical play,” he said. “We knew they were going to do that. We knew we were going to have to match them and the kids did.
“Mercy doesn't dodge anybody. They made us work. It was a battle.”