Lady Pats’ season ends in heartbreak: Lincoln girls fall to No. 4 Mercer in championship rematch

Published 1:13 pm Thursday, March 9, 2017

SOMERSET — Kaitlynn Wilks tallied a team-high 25 points on 9-for-14 shooting, Haley Southerland came off the bench for 15 points off 6-for-13 shooting and Emma King got 13 points behind an 8-for-8 stint at the foul line, but it was not enough as the Lincoln County girls fell 83-67 to Mercer County Saturday afternoon in the championship game of the 12th Region Tournament final.
The title game was a rematch of the 2016 regional final. The No. 4 Titans, who won 64-54 over the Lady Patriots in last year’s final, claimed their third straight regional title with Saturday’s win at Pulaski County High School.
“I’ve said it all year that there’s a reason they’ve been a top 10, top 5 team all year. Mercer’s a very tough ball team,” Lincoln coach Cassandra McWhorter said. “Every team would like to be where we’re sitting, too. You don’t want to be a loser, but we made it to the region championship, and that means something because there are a lot of programs whose seasons were over a long time ago.”
“But as far as hurting worse just because it’s the same team, I think any loss hurts, especially when it’s a region championship game.”
Even though the Lady Patriots fell in the rematch 83-67, the score wasn’t nearly indicative of how close the game was at times.
The Titans led the entire game, but the Lady Patriots never backed off. Down 18-11 with 2:56 left in the first, Maddy Boyle converted on a three-point play, Logan Godbey followed with a basket then Wilks nailed her second 3-pointer of the period to get the Lady Patriots within 20-19 with 2:05 left on the clock.
But Mercer would answer back with a quarter-ending 11-0 run. Seygan Robins, who had a game-high 31 points on 9-for-17 shooting, 4-for-7 from 3-point range and 9-for-10 at the line, bombed in her first trey to ignite the run then followed with her second 3. Lyric Houston, who finished with 17 points, knocked down two field goals and Emma Davis added a free throw toss to put the Titans up 31-19 after the first quarter.
The Titans would continue to use runs over the remainder of the game to hold the Lady Patriots at bay. However, Lincoln would manage to trim Mercer’s lead to single digits in the second, third and fourth quarters with their own runs.
The Lady Patriots used a 6-1 run midway through the second quarter to trim a 12-point deficit to seven, with Southerland sinking two free throws and Jenna King and Wilks scoring back-to-back buckets to make it 38-31.
Mercer took a 49-36 lead into the break and had built a 57-41 lead early in the third quarter when Lincoln broke on another scoring tear. Emma King opened the 12-5 run with a pair of free throws, Trinity Shearer followed with a bucket then Wilks closed with two field goals and four straight free throw tosses to make it a 62-53 ballgame.
The Lady Patriots made their final push early in the fourth quarter. They trailed 66-55 going into the fourth quarter, but went 3-for-4 at the foul line to open the final frame and close the gap to 66-58.
“I’m really, really proud of my girls for never letting up,” McWhorter said. “Even when they made the run and got it up to 16, 17 points. I felt it and I knew it. We were going to cut into it. We cut it to eight and I thought, ‘Here we go!’ I had flashbacks of the Boyle County game and just that momentum. I felt we started to get momentum.”
However, that momentum would be squelched.
“I thought there were a couple whistles that stopped that momentum,” McWhorter said. “Not blaming the officials in any way. I just thought it stopped the flow of the game and what we had going. Then they did a good job of knocking down free throws. They hit a shot there out of it. We come down having a couple possessions that went empty. And, you know, Mercer does what Mercer does and they extended the lead back up.”
Eight points was as close as Lincoln would get in the fourth quarter. The Titans outscored the Lady Patriots 14-2 over a span of 4 minutes, 58 seconds to post their first 20-point lead.
Robins, who went over 2,000 points in Mercer’s semifinal win Friday night, had six points in the run, Faith Lake, who finished with 10 points, knocked down four points and Houston and Davis each had two points to make it 80-60 with 2:40 to go.
McWhorter said that while some in the stands might have been surprised to see Lincoln push Mercer in the finals, there were others that weren’t.
“Our girls believed,” she said. “We talked (Friday) before the game against Wayne County about trust, and in the middle of trust is ‘us.’ You have to count on one another, you have to rely on each other. You’ve got to have each other’s back.”
“I don’t think there were very many people in this gym who honestly, 100 percent thought we could do it. Those 11 players in that locker room and the coaching staff truly believed and I think that showed in our play.”
Lincoln shot 43 percent from the field, going 23-for-54 overall, 5-for-16 from 3-point range. At the line, the Lady Patriots were 16-for-19.
Mercer finished at 45 percent from the field, on 22-for-49 shooting, 10-for-23 from 3. At the line, the Titans were 29-for-36.
Lincoln outrebounded Mercer 30-22, led by Wilks. The sophomore center fell short of a double-double, but she still grabbed seven boards to go with her 25 points.
“Kaitlynn had a great tournament, and tonight she was ready to go,” McWhorter said. “I’ll take her any night against any post in the region. I thought she really dominated this game. I would have loved to see us get a few more touches in there to her, to get her the ball, but Mercer’s got length and that makes it hard to get it in to her sometimes. And they double-teamed. But she continued to work hard and I’m really proud of how she played.”
Trinity Shearer, Emma King and Southerland each had five rebounds.
Emmy Souder and Houston were Mercer’s leading rebounders with seven boards apiece.
The Titans led in assists 16-14. Houston had six for Mercer and Boyle had five assists for Lincoln.
Saturday’s loss marks not only the end of the season for the Lady Patriots, but the end of a high school career for seniors Logan Godbey and Jenna King.
“We just had a really emotional moment in the locker room,” McWhorter said as she fought back tears. “Logan and Jenna are two spectacular young ladies. They knew all year that they had a very, very talented sophomore group underneath them and I couldn’t have asked more out of two young ladies in the leadership that they’ve given to this team all year. To take these girls under their wings as little sisters. They are a big part of the success we’ve had all year.”
“They are just such great role models, not just for their team but for their peers in the school and the community. They’re very, very special. It really meant something to them to wear the Lincoln uniform. They are going to be hard to replace next year leadership-wise and in heart.”
Mercer was set to play 16th Region champion Boyd County (26-8) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Northern Kentucky University in the first round of the Sweet 16. 
“I think they’ll prove next week at state the capability they have. I want to see them win it all now,” McWhorter said. “I wish Coach (Chris) Souder and his team well.”

12th Region Championship
at Pulaski Co.

1 2 3 4 F
Lincoln 19 17 19 12 – 67
Mercer 31 18 17 17- 83

LINCOLN (23-9) – Emma King 13, Kaitlynn Wilks 25, Maddy Boyle 6, Jenna King 4, Logan Godbey 2, Haley Southerland 15, Trinity Shearer 2.
MERCER (27-6) – Seygan Robins 31, Faith Lake 10, Lexy Lake 9, Lyric Houston 17, Emmy Souder 9, Emma Davis 7.

All-Tournament Team
Emma King, Lincoln Co.; Faith Lake, Mercer Co.; Lyric Houston, Mercer Co.; Haley Southerland, Lincoln Co.; Lexy Lake, Mercer Co.; Seygan Robins, Mercer Co.; Kaitlynn Wilks, Lincoln Co.; Meg Burchett, Wayne Co.; Hannah Jackson, Wayne Co.; Regi Cundiff, Southwestern; Cassi Reed, Southwestern; Bethany Hamilton, West Jessamine; Kaitlyn Johnson, Somerset; Mahala Saylor, Rockcastle Co.; Emmie Harris, Boyle Co.