By MIKE MARSEE
4:15 PM EST, February 28, 2013
Brian Britt knows his Mercer County team is the surprise among the semifinalists in the 12th Region Tournament, but he isn’t surprised that the Titans are still alive.
Mercer upset defending champion Southwestern to earn a spot in the semifinals, and the Titans will face Somerset on Friday at Lincoln County in a game few expected them to be in.
But Britt, the Mercer coach, said he saw signs last summer that the Titans were capable of things they couldn’t do last season, and then it simply became a matter of convincing them what was possible, and he said he thinks that process was finally completed Tuesday.
“I told them, ‘You get past this game, and I feel like you should understand what I saw during the summer. You win that game and you’ll see what I see,’ and honestly, I¿believe they got it,” Britt said.
Britt said the strides the Titans made from last summer gave him reason to believe they could write a better ending to this season than last, when they lost a district elimination game to East Jessamine.
Now Mercer (17-13) faces Somerset (19-9), a team Britt hadn’t seen until he watched the Briar Jumpers beat Boyle County on Tuesday.
“I’m very impressed,” he said. “They’re a big and physical team, and when I got home I started looking at their schedule, and they haven’t been beat by anybody they shouldn’t have. There is not a bad loss on their schedule.”
Somerset’s strength is in its strength — the Jumpers feature several players who starred for the school’s football team that reached the Class AA semifinals — and Britt said the Titans haven’t faced a team quite like it.
“We haven’t played anybody that big,” he said. “We played a big team last night, but Somerset’s a different kind of big ... and they’re very aggressive. We haven’t played that kind of team.
“They’re a very strong team, and as hard as they play and as physical, that’s something that we may not be used to. I¿know we’re going to play hard, but we have to make sure we’re going to be able to match their physicality.”
Mercer will be the faster team Friday, but Britt said Mercer will take a similar approach on defense to the one it used Tuesday to slow down Southwestern.
“We’re going to get up and down the floor, but we’re just not going to play a man-to-man,” he said. “Once the ball goes through the basket or we get the rebound, we are going to be looking to get up and down the floor, but we want to make sure we don’t give up layup after layup after layup.”
Somerset is led by forward Tyson Williams, who entered the tournament averaging 14.4 points and 7.5 rebounds. Guard Ryan Dishman was averaging 13.0 points.
Russell Sims leads Mercer with 13.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, and Will Hager averages 13.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, and guard John Ingram averages 8.1 assists.
The Mercer-Somerset game will be preceded by a semifinal between Wayne County and West Jessamine — Wayne won a regular-season meeting 66-61 on Feb. 8 — and Friday’s winners will play for the championship Saturday.
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