The Mercer County girls' basketball team was everything as advertised Saturday afternoon at The Fieldhouse against Mason County.
The Lady Titans feature length, a relentless defensive intensity and a returning starting five already signed to play college basketball. They're also the preseason ranked No. 1 team in the state according to numerous media outlets and the defending state champs.
Their length and relentless defense was too much for a Lady Royals (3-4) team without two starters in Kara Moran (injury) and Victoria Brooks (personal), running away with a 73-28 victory.
"You've got to put things into perspective, you have to put family and health before basketball. Hopefully everything is okay with both Kara and Victoria with everything that's going on," Lady Royals coach Brad Cox said. "What we missed with them tonight is their length, rebounding and ability to release some pressure in the full court being able to see over the defense."
Mercer (5-1) would take full advantage, forcing 12 first quarter turnovers as they built a 24-3 lead by the end of the quarter.
"In the past couple years we hadn't got out to real good starts so we've been really working on being intense and active early. I know they were down a couple starters tonight and that really hurt them, but it was good to see a lot of energy early," Lady Titans coach Chris Souder said.
Then Emmy Souder, a Northern Kentucky University signee, made her presence felt inside in a second quarter where she scored 18 second quarter points, the last bucket to get her over 1,000 points for her career.
"She had no clue. I told Seygan (Robins) when she needed four. We didn't tell her and really tried to get her the ball when she just needed four more," Souder said of his niece.
The Lady Royals made a 7-0 run in the second, but that was answered by a 19-4 run by Mercer to close out the quarter and take a 48-14 lead into halftime.
Campbellsville signee Faith Lake hit a 3-pointer to open up the second half and got the game to a running clock as the Lady Titans didn't look back from there, holding the Lady Royals scoreless in the fourth for a 45-point victory.
"We had zero prep for this game with a game last night. Sometimes you're left in a situation like that and you'll see it in postseason play. We wanted to sustain the first three or four minutes and we obviously didn't do that tonight. What really bothered us was their trap," Cox said.
Mercer was led by Souder's 30 point, 10 rebound night. Emma Davis, a Tennessee-Martin signee, added 10 points and eight rebounds and is next on tap for 1,000 points, just a few away.
"She just needs 10 or 11. Then we'll have one more and all five seniors will have at least a 1,000 points which is rare. It's a testament to them and what kind of teammates they are," Souder said.
Seygan Robins, a Louisville signee, scored two points, but made her presence felt on defense with five steals in the first half. Faith Lake's twin sister, Lexy, also a Campbellsville signee, matched her sister's point total with seven.
The Lady Royals got some bright spots from freshman Emma Taylor as she led the team with nine points on the evening.
"We're getting better. I don't think this score is reflective of where we're going and how much we've improved. We just have to continue to get better, shake this one off and move forward because we have some winnable games next week," Cox said.
Leading scorer AJ Reed chipped in seven as the Lady Royals had their three-game winning streak snapped. They'll return to action Tuesday when they host Newport at 6 p.m.