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If only the Elizabethtown Lady Panthers had heeded Tim Mudd’s warning.
The 19-year coach had cautioned them about Louisville Mercy senior guard Whitney Hartlage’s dangerous spot-up 3-point shooting.
Instead, they let her find a comfort zone from the right wing in the first half and the NCAA Division-I signee helped the Jaguars stay undefeated, while the Lady Panthers said goodbye to their unbeaten start.
Hartlage, who’s heading to Chattanooga, scored 12 of her team-high 16 points in the first two quarters to lead visiting Mercy to a 57-44 victory Tuesday night over Elizabethtown at Charlie Rawlings Memorial Gymnasium.
“We knew she was going to hit her 3s because she’s a great 3-shooter. But I guess we weren’t ready for it,” said sophomore guard Livie Bowling. “I guess we came out like ‘we were going to win’ and they started hitting their 3s and then we got it in our head that we need to pick it up.”
Hartlage hit three 3-pointers in the game’s first 6 minutes, including two from the right wing, and finished 4-of-8 from the arc in the first half. She helped the Jaguars to a 28-18 halftime advantage before the Lady Panthers finally got serious – holding her to 0-of-3 shooting from the field in the second half.
“Hartlage hurt us there in the first half, which was a player that we had really keyed on. The second half we did a much better job on her,” Mudd said. “But the first half, I don’t know. I just don’t think the girls believed me that she was that kind of shooter. She’s not a normal shooter. She’s a knockdown shooter if you leave her open.”
Mercy’s frenetic first-quarter pace left Elizabethtown (5-1) playing catch-up the rest of the night. The Jaguars (4-0), who notched their third straight victory over the Lady Panthers, pushed the ball upcourt with quick passing and lots of movement the entire period.
Trailing 7-6, Mercy scored 12 straight points – six coming from Hartlage and four by senior forward Morgan Doherty – to take an 18-7 advantage with 26 seconds left in the quarter. Mercy held Elizabethtown to 4-of-11 (36.3 percent) from the field and forced five turnovers.
“Our goal is always make them play fast. Cause I don’t like going against their zones. If I can beat a set defense, that’s what I’ll take,” said Mercy coach Mark Evans. “The first half we were able to do that, hit transition 3s. The second half we were not able to do that. They were able to get back, play defense and shade her (Hartlage). That’s the mark of a good coach on the other side.”
Trailing 36-22 with 4:14 left in the third, the Lady Panthers attempted a comeback. They went on a 13-3 run as freshman forward Erin Boley hit two free throws to cut the deficit to 39-35 with 51.1 seconds remaining in the period. Boley scored eight of her game-high 19 points during the stretch.
That’s the closest Elizabethtown could get.
Leading 43-37 after the third, Mercy opened the fourth quarter with five straight points. Elizabethtown answered with a 5-1 run to cut the deficit to 48-42 with 5:09 remaining. But the Jaguars sealed the game from the foul line, hitting 9-of-11 free throws in the final 5 minutes.
Hartlage hit all four of her fouls shots, while senior guard Kayla Richardson, who scored 15 points, hit 3-of-4 during that stretch. Doherty finished with 14 points, going 4-of-5 from the foul line.
“I thought in the fourth we (were) rattled but I think in the fourth quarter we came out and were able to hit a shot or two and then they were trying to chase us,” Evans said. “They just didn’t have enough to catch up that far.”
Elizabethtown senior reserve forward Alexis Powell added seven points and four rebounds, while sophomore center Reauna Cleaver had five points and eight rebounds.
LOUISVILLE MERCY 57, ELIZABETHTOWN 44
Mercy 18 10 15 14—57
Elizabethtown 10 8 19 7—44
Whitney Hartlage 16, Kayla Richardson 15, Morgan Doherty 14, Victoria Dickerson 6, Malerie Martin 4, Mackenzie Stovall 2. FG: 18-48. FT: 15-22. 3-pointers: 6-21 (Hartlage 4-11, Richardson 2-5, Makenzie Stilger 0-1, Dickerson 0-2, Martin 0-2). Assists: 10 (Richardson 4, Stovall 2). Steals: 7 (Dickerson 2, Doherty 2).
Erin Boley 19, Alexis Powell 7, Livie Bowling 5, Reauna Cleaver 5, Anna Bowling 3, Kinsey Mudd 3, Darien Huff 2. FG: 13-39. FT: 14-17. 3-pointers: 4-17 (Boley 1-1, L. Bowling 1-2, A. Bowling 1-4, Mudd 1-5, Rachel Warden 0-2, Huff 0-3). Rebs: 32 (Cleaver 8, Boley 6). Assists: 12 (L. Bowling 4, A. Bowling 2, Boley 2, Huff 2). Steals: 4 (L. Bowling 1, A. Bowling 1, Cleaver 1, Powell 1).
UP NEXT: Elizabethtown hosts Central Hardin at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
John Groth can be reached at (270) 505-1754 or email@example.com.