Prep Basketball: Lincoln boys start fast, fight off Mercer for 70-65 win
Luke Hill of Lincoln County watches his layup fall into the basket after shooting between Mercer County defenders Will Hager, back, and Jordan Duncan during the first quarter of Lincoln's 70-65 victory Tuesday. Hill led the Patriots with 33 points. (Mike Marsee / February 6, 2013)
The Patriots were playing for the second straight night and for the third time in four nights, but the Patriots got the jump on Mercer County in the first quarter, then spent most of the remaining three periods fighting off the Titans for a 70-65 victory.
Luke Hill scored 33 points to lead Lincoln (13-14), and he got 14 of them in the first quarter to help the Patriots build a lead that reached 15 points early in the second period, then was trimmed to five by halftime and shrunk to as little as three in the second half.
Hill said fatigue wasn’t a factor as the Patriots held off Mercer (14-10), the area’s winningest team.
“We condition for that, we try to shoot free throws when we’re tired. I think we all just played hard tonight,” Hill said. “Mercer’s a good team. They beat Boyle (County), which beat us twice. Tonight we just came out, and I think we just played hard, I think we just gave it pretty much everything we could. Mercer’s a good team, but in the end it paid off for us.”
Both Hill and Lincoln were at their best in the first quarter, when he went 6 for 7 from the field and the Patriots were 10 for 14 without a turnover.
“We got off to a really good start. I thought we defended really, really well and got Luke established, and those were two things we wanted to do,” Lincoln coach Jeff Jackson said. “And then we stopped defending ... and they shoot the ball awfully well. They play hard, they’re well-coached and they keep playing, and they’re never out of a game because of the way they shoot the ball.”
Mercer (14-10) was also playing for the second straight night — the Titans edged Boyle in overtime while Lincoln was winning at Madison Southern — but coach Brian Britt said his team should have been better at the start.
“It’s like I was telling these guys, ‘Yeah, you played a pretty intense game last night, but so did Lincoln County, so that’s not an excuse for me,” Britt said. “We just came out flat. We settled. This is the first time in a couple of game we settled for (shots) at the 3-point line again instead of attacking the basket, and ... when we started attacking, that’s when we started making our run.”
Lincoln scored the first 11 points — Hill had six of them — while Mercer missed four 3-point shots before getting on the board 3 minutes, 15 seconds in.
The Patriots led 21-7 late in the first period and took their largest lead at 30-15 1:34 into the second quarter on back-to-back layups by Hill, who at that point had 18 points and was 8 for 9 from the field.
Hill finished 14 for 20 from the field and 5 for 8 from the free-throw line. Neither he nor Jackson knew if his 33 points were a career high, but this was certainly one of his best games as a Patriot.
”It’s my last year, so really I’m trying to give it everything I have,” he said. “And I’ve got a really good point guard who’s going to give me the ball. That’s real important, too, because nobody on our team is selfish. Whoever’s night it is, we get them the ball.”
Timmy Taylor, the Patriots’ point guard, had 12 assists and only three turnovers.
“He’s learning. He’s going to be really good point guard when he’s a senior — he’s already a good point guard. When he gets going, that gets all of us going, and he’s really the key to us playing good,” Hill said.
Taylor raised his season average to 8.2 assists per game, while Mercer’s John Ingram had 10 assists and increased his area-leading average to 8.4.
Lincoln’s 30-15 lead began to evaporate quickly as Mercer ran off six straight points while the Patriots went scoreless for about 2 1/2 minutes. Lincoln responded with five straight points, but Mercer nine unanswered points in the last two minutes of the first half to pull within 35-30.
A 3-pointer by Jordan Duncan drew the Titans within three points at 37-34 before the Patriots regained some breathing room with an 8-1 run that included another five-points by Hill.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Ingram allowed Mercer to pull within 45-41, and the Titans were within four points once more in the third quarter and twice late in the game, but they got no closer.
Lincoln hit 12 of 17 free throws, but all five of its misses came in the final 1:06.
“They kept fighting, and we found a way to hang on and win, and I was proud of our kids,” Jackson said. “I thought our zone was good tonight down the stretch. We played it the last thee minutes or so, and that’s the best we’ve moved out of it since the Madison Central game (Jan. 18). I thought we were really active out of it and moved out of it tonight.”
Brandon Pittman had 12 points and Jacob Conway had 11 rebounds for Lincoln.
Russell Sims had 17 points and nine rebounds to lead a balanced Mercer attack. Will Hager added 15 points for the Titans, followed by Ingram with 14 and Duncan with 13.
Lincoln shot 52 percent (26 for 50) from the field and hit six of 18 3-point attempts, while Mercer shot 43 percent (20 for 46) and was 7 for 23 from 3-point range.
Mercer County 13 30 45 65
Lincoln County 26 35 51 70
MERCER (14-10) — Jordan Duncan 13, John Ingram 14, Will Hager 15, Russell Sims 17, Michael Cox 2, Tommy Craig 4.
LINCOLN (13-14) — Brandon Pittman 12, Luke Hill 33, Timmy Taylor 8, B.J. Hoover 3, Jacob Conway 8, Neil Conley 6.