NICHOLASVILLE — Coming off a double-overtime win in the district semifinals Monday, Mercer County coach Brian¿Britt was worried if his team would be able to come back with another strong performance in Thursday’s 46th District final.
West Jessamine just had too much as it scored 30 points off 22 Mercer turnovers, led by 12 points at the half and beat the Titans 77-57 at East Jessamine.
“I felt like we played like we were tired. A huge win on Monday (89-80 over East Jessamine), and you think about it, this is the first success this team has seen in two years,” Britt said. “I told them good programs are able to put good games back-to-back. Big wins, back-to-back, and that’s one of the things we’re still learning.”
West (17-11) had 14 points off of 11 Mercer turnovers to take a 40-28 halftime lead, then turned it on to open up the third quarter. A free throw from John Ingram, who scored 14 points, made it 40-29, but the Colts then went on an 8-0 run which essentially put the game away.
Mercer had three chances at a bucket before West finally got the rebound and scored on Robby Irgang’s layup. Chase Fain, who scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Tanner Richards and Irgang then all scored off of Mercer turnovers as the Colts led 48-29 with 4:45 left in the third. They led 59-43 heading to the fourth quarter.
Mercer missed its first four shots and had five turnovers in the third frame before Tommy Craig’s bucket make it 48-31. Mercer was just 3-for-8 in the quarter and finished the night 15 of 48 from the floor and 16 of 24 at the free throw line.
West was 29 of 59 for the game, including 1-for-9 from 3-point range, and made 16 of 23 free throws. West was 25 of 39 shooting from 2-point range through the first three quarters largely due to easy layups off of Mercer turnovers and the Titan’s inability to keep the Colts out of the lane on drives.
West coach Damon Kelley said his team clamped down on its defense after the first quarter.
“We didn’t do anything fancy tonight. We just tried to play smart, fundamental basketball and for the most part it was one of the better efforts we’ve had in the last couple of weeks,” he said. “It wasn’t pressing, it wasn’t trapping, it was just good help defense. They didn’t have any open lanes to the rim.”
Mercer (16-13) showed no ill-effects from Tuesday’s double-overtime game to start Thursday.
The Titans were 7-for-13 overall and 5-for-7 from 3-point range with Blake Pennington, Will Hager and Jordan Duncan hitting 3s to put Mercer up 10-4 early. West went on a 12-3 run, scoring eight points off of turnovers, to lead 19-17 after Rashawn Jackson’s jumper.
Mercer quickly raced down court and Sims drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing to put Mercer up 20-19 after a quarter. But the Titans were just 1-for-16 from long range after the first quarter.
“We’d get to the rim and we’d kick it (out). We had wide open 3s tonight,” the Mercer coach said. “A lot of times when we fall in love with the 3, we tend to shoot when somebody is two feet from us. Tonight they were 10, 15 feet from us. We just didn’t knock them down.”
Kelley said the Colts did a better job of pressuring Mercer’s shooters after the first quarter.
“Fortunately, they cooled off a little bit, we did a better job of dropping back in transition,” Kelley said. “I thought the first three or four minutes of the game they were beating us down the floor too much and that’s why they were getting open looks.”
A 7-2 West run, capped by a putback by Ian Kossick off a missed free throw, put the Colts up 26-22 in the second quarter. Sims, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds, hit two free throws after an offensive board and the Titans trailed 26-24 with 3:27 left in the half.
Then West Jessamine put together another big run, scoring nine straight points to lead 35-24 with 2:11 to go in the half and the Colts took a 40-28 lead into the half.
Britt said he did not call a timeout during the run — pointing out he rarely calls first-half timeouts — to see how his team would react.
“It’s adversity and they have to learn to overcome that adversity on the floor,” he said.
Britt said he didn’t think it was a matter of Mercer having to bounce back from Thursday’s loss to get ready for the 12th Region Tournament as much as just being ready to play.
“I think it’s a matter of us making sure we’re all on the same page and making sure we play good team basketball,” he said.
46th District Tournament
At East Jessamine
Mercer County 20 28 43 57
West Jessamine 19 40 59 77
MERCER¿(16-13) — Marcus Warren 2, John Ingram 14, Russel Sims 16, Will Hager 4, Blake Pennington 8, Louis Price 2, Jordan Duncan 5, Tommy Craig 6.
WEST¿JESSAMINE¿(17-11) — Rashawn Jackson 6, Chase Fain 24, Tanner Richards 4, Will Henderson 8, Robby Irgang 11, Daulton Peters 12, Ian Kossick 10, Justin Sanders 2.
John¿Ingram, Mercer County; Russel Sims, Mercer County; Nick Beckerson, Burgin; Will Henderson, West Jessamine; Daulton Peters, West Jessamine; Chase Fain, West Jessamine; Taylor Harper, East Jessamine.