by Conor Revell
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Mercy’s basketball team was on a hot streak heading into Sunday night’s game against Assumption after winning nine of its past 10 games.
The Jaguars didn’t cool down any either, rolling past the visiting Rockets 59-39 for their sixth straight victory.
“Honestly, it turned around when we went to Lexington,” Mercy head coach Keith Baisch said. “We lost to E’town and then we played CAL, which was an ugly game, but we scratched out a win and then we went to Lexington and played some really good competition. Ever since then we have really been clicking and playing as a team. The kids have been having fun and the chemistry has been awesome.”
The Jaguars (11-4) hit 8 of 24 three-pointer shots and their full-court press forced Assumption (2-10) to turn the ball over 26 times.
“We’ve been making sure our team has been playing together and that we rely on each other,” Mercy guard Hannah Bewley said. “We trust each other a lot more. It has been more about that than the fundamentals and that what helped us.”
With the Rockets struggling to get past half court, Mercy ended up with 21 steals.
“We wanted to slow the tempo,” Assumption head coach Amy Siegel said. “When you play against a team that presses that much, you have to make sure that if you are able to beat the pressure that you are able to set up in your half-court offense. When they have a changing defense like that, you have to be able to handle the initial pressure and then run your stuff.”
The Jaguars suffered a scary moment when sophomore center Elizabeth Anderson went down with a knee injury late in the first quarter. But senior forward Malerie Martin said she wasn’t too worried.
“We have prepared our bench players to come out and contribute if something like that happens,” Martin explained. “Losing her hurts, but we have other players that can come in and do a good job.”
Anderson didn’t return, but Baisch was happy with how his team defended Assumption’s 6-foot-6 Nora Kiesler, who finished with 10 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks.
“Scott Hamilton, a St. X trainer, always told me you always hope for the best but you prepare for the worst,” Baisch said. “That’s what we’re going to do. We have her going to do the doctor in the morning and she’ll probably have an MRI. You hate to see it happen to any kid, but this kid works so hard.”
No other Rockets scored in double figures. Freshman Samantha Babey had six points and Cassidy Janes five.
Martin led the Jaguars with 15 points, eight rebounds, six steals and four assists. Nine other Jaguars scored.
Bewley added 12 points, three assists and three steals. The Bellarmine signee was 4 of 7 from beyond the arc.
“We always shoot plenty of shots during practice,” Bewley said. “Some days we are on and some days we aren’t as much. Today we were really on and we just have to make sure that we keep our form right.”
Kathryn Gross recorded eight points and three steals for Mercy, and Mackenzie Stovall and Maddie Woods each scored seven.
It took a quarter for the Jaguars to warm up — they trailed 8-7 midway through the opening period.
“I think we were wild offensively in the first half,” Baisch said. “We were trying to play at a defensive speed on offense. When we do that we aren’t very good offensively. We just need to be composed and work the ball and get a few more reversals and try to get some drives and penetration kicks. We were getting wide-open shots with the reversals, but I was trying to get the drive-kick.”
Mercy then went on a 12-0 run to take a 19-8 lead early in the second quarter and the margin grew to 23 points in the fourth quarter.
“We played man the whole game,” Siegel said. “We talked about changing to a zone when we weren’t stopping the ball. When you give the point guard a chance to dribble in and pick and find whoever they want, that’s going to be a problem. Our initial adjustment was to try and stop the ball early in the backcourt and not allow them to dribble in. They’re well-coached and knew when to hit them.”
Siegel wasn’t happy that her team was only 13 of 31 from the foul line.
However, Assumption hit 11 of 23 shots from the field, including 4 of 8 three-pointers, while Mercy was 19 of 54 overall.
“I think we came in the season thinking this year was going to be a walkthrough since everybody returned,” Martin said. “We learned quickly that things weren’t going to come easy and that we have to work for them. The practices have gotten a lot harder and become a lot longer.”
The Rockets have now lost two straight after picking up their second win of the season against Cooper eight days ago.
“I think the win against Cooper helped us believe a little bit,” Siegel said. “We still have to sharpen up on a lot of things. We missed 17 free throws and we still lost by 20. Obviously, Keith is a great coach, but if we were able to take care of the little things then this game may have been a lot different. The pressure of the game could have lessened up a little bit.”