Prep Basketball: Mercer boys fall to East Jessamine 78-63
Mercer County¿s John Ingram sails in for two of his 13 points Friday in the Titans¿ 78-63 loss to East Jessamine. (Jonathan Stark)
Sophomore Russell Sims came out strong for Mercer scoring nine of the squads first 11 points, but he alone wasn’t enough to keep up with the fast-paced Jaguars (19-4, 4-0) who jumped out to a 22-11 lead in the first period. Three runs of six or more points help East build its lead in eight minutes and it looked as if the Jags would run away with the game.
However, East let up toward the end of the second quarter allowing Mercer to gain momentum. Trailing 40-21 with 2:30 before halftime, Simms knocked down a pair of free throws and basket to cut the lead to 15. A bucket by John Ingram cut the lead to 13 with 46 second remaining in the second quarter. Mercer foul Timmy Bradshaw on a 3-point attempt with three second to go in the half and despite Bradshaw sinking all three attempts from the line, the Titans had all of the momentum heading into the break.
“We came in and talked about rebounding, we were giving up too many offensive rebounds to them and talked to them about taking care of the ball … we addressed those things at halftime and they came out and did those things a little better,” Mercer coach Brian Britt said. “We picked up the energy (in the second half) ... A lot of teams that press don’t like to be attacked off that press and that’s what we did in the second half. We looked to try to attack the press and once we get past half court slow it down.”
A bucket by Drew Davis and a trey by Ingram to start the third quarter cut the lead to just 11. A 3-pointer by Davis a few minutes later brought Mercer within single figures at 46-38. The suddenly evaporating lead forced the reeling Jaguars to burn a timeout.
“We played much better than we did last night (an 83-71 loss to Burgin). We came out and competed, we still made a lot of turnovers that were really unforced but for the most part the kids seemed like they wanted to be out there tonight,” Britt said.
Coming out of the timeout East failed to covert on the offensive end and Mercer made them pay with a 3-pointer by Ingram to make it 46-41. The Titans had East right were they wanted them too, in foul trouble with scoring threats Tashan Hairston and Cody Collins on the bench with three fouls a piece.
“We just didn’t play smart to start the third quarter,” East coach Chris O’Bryan said. “Then we were in a dog fight and there’s no reason for that to happen. I felt like there was about six to eight minutes there – end of the second and start of the third – where we weren’t focused and ready.”
With game suddenly up for grabs it was East senior and sixth man Bradshaw who hit a big 2-pointer to reignite the Jags. Cameron Thomas followed with a basket to push the lead back to nine points at 50-41.
“For whatever reason (we) settled down and started to execute the offense. When (Mercer) is in that 2-3 zone you don’t necessarily have to take the first shot, you have to work it around and penetrate. We switched our offense to a four out one in motion look and attacked and kicked and I thought that got us better open looks,” O’Bryan said.
Three-pointers by Taylor Harper and Bradshaw for East helped the Jags to a 57-45 lead to keep the Titans at bay heading into the fourth quarter.
Mercer stayed within about 10 points the rest of the night as East converted on 9-of-16 free throws in the fourth quarter. Mercer’s Jordan Duncan picked up his fourth foul midway through the quarter but did not end up fouling out.
The Titan fell short against East in their first meeting, 82-72, on Dec. 13. Britt liked the way his squad played in the earlier loss, sans a few minutes, and tried to bring that same game plan to Friday’s rematch.
Things got a bit choppy in the final minute. Following a steal by East’s Thomas, Austin Sparrow fouled the senior guard as he went up for a lay up. Thomas fell awkwardly on his arms and lay on the ground for a few tense second before getting up. Sparrow was called for the intentional foul, and O’Bryan was whistled for a technical foul following a discussion with the officials. Thomas made one of two free shots and Matthew Hamilton made one of two technical shots on the other end.
After his strong first quarter, Sims went for 10 points in the second quarter and 27 on the night. Ingram was also in double figures with 13 points.
East Jessamine 22 43 57 78
Mercer County 11 27 45 63
EAST¿JESSAMINE (19-4) — Bradshaw 19, Hairston 12, Harper 11, Rexroat 9, Boyd 9, Collins 6, Thomas 6, Carson 5, and Jones 1.
MERCER¿(6-17) — Russell Sims 27, John Ingram 13, Drew Davis 7, Jordan Duncan 4, Matthew Hamiton 3, Austin Sparrow 3, Austin Horn 2, Louis Price 2, Tommy Craig 2.