Lady Crimsons square off with Mercer County in LIT quarterfinals


Photo by Jordyn Stumpf.

Reagan Roy

Photo by Jordyn Stumpf.
Joleene Ballard (09. #3) drives the ball down the court to look for an open pass. Photo by Jordyn Stumpf.

With 11.5 seconds left in regulation and seventh-ranked Manual down 62-59 to third-ranked Mercer County, Manual Head Coach Mr. Jeffrey Sparks called his final timeout to draw up a play. Once the timeout ended, Aniah Griffin (10, #21) got free from her defender and threw up a three ball for what may have been the Lady Crimsons’ last shot of the game.  The crowd was silent as she pulled up, and as the shot fell, the fans erupted.  Manual was headed to overtime.

“When I made that there I really didn’t think it was going to go in, but it did,” Griffin said. “I was just glad I gave my team a chance in overtime.”

While the Lady Crimsons did eventually fall, 70-67, to Mercer County in the Louisville International Tournament (LIT) quarterfinals, this game demonstrated clearly that the Lady Crimsons can go toe-to-toe with some of the best teams in Kentucky.

The face-off against Mercer County gave Manual ample opportunity to experiment with less-experienced players–with Krys Mccune (12, #55) fouling out and Tonysha Curry (11, #23) being well-defended, the Lady Crimsons had to rely on bench players like Griffin and Nila Blackford (9, #41).

After a lackluster first half, the Lady Crimsons were able to bounce back well. At the start of the second half, Curry grabbed a rebound and went coast to coast, scoring off a layup in traffic. This got Manual’s offense flowing, bringing them successfully back into the game.

“We played great in spurts,” Head Coach Sparks said. “We started the game off a little rough but settled down in the second quarter, and fought every step of the way.”

The Crimsons fought through contact all game, passing the ball around and executing the fast break to perfection. Griffin and Blackford came off the bench in a big way, providing instant offense. Griffin, in particular, stepped up to show her abilities when star center Mccune fouled out with fewer than four minutes left in the game.

“I tried to get open as much as I can and cut to the basket to help my team, ” Griffin said. “When Krys fouled out I just thought to myself that I had to play harder, get stronger and play aggressive.”  

In overtime, the battle became less about big time highlight reel plays and more about the defensive struggle to see who could make it out of the five extra minutes. Either Mercer County would foul and Manual would go to the line, or the Crimsons would force a turnover, mishandle the ball and then turn it over.

“We proved we are a good team; we need to learn how to go to a great team,” Sparks said. “We learned that we can go toe-to-toe with a team like Mercer County–we just have to learn how to win the close games.”

Though the Lady Crimsons are now out of the LIT, they look to forward to facing George Rogers Clark at home on Feb. 2. Tipoff is at 6:30 p.m.