Prep Basketball: Mercer falls to Somerset 58-48 in boys 12th Region Tournament semifinal
Mercer County Will Hager, left, of Mercer County sees his shot blocked by Somerset defender Ryan Weddle (50) during the fourth quarter of Mercer's 58-48 loss Friday in a boys 12th Region Tournament semifinal at Lincoln County. (Clay Jackson / January 23, 2013)
Three days after a sudden and dramatic reversal of fortune sent the Mercer County boys into the regional semifinals, another change sent them packing Friday night.
Unable to replicate the performance that produced a dramatic first-round upset, Mercer saw its season end with a 58-48 loss to Somerset in a boys 12th Region Tournament semifinal at Lincoln County.
The Titans couldn’t score from the perimeter as they had done Tuesday in their victory over Southwestern, and they were reluctant to go inside against the larger Briar Jumpers. The result was a vastly different game in which they fell behind early and were unable to catch up.
“That’s why you play the game. Coming in Tuesday night, I’m sure no one expected that outcome. To be honest with you, coming in tonight I didn’t expect this outcome. I felt like we had a game plan that would be effective
Mercer had a plan, but so did Somerset. The Briar Jumpers exploited their advantage in size and strength, getting 13 of their 20 field goals in the paint.
The Titans had their hands full with Somerset forward Tyson Williams and center Ryan Weddle, who scored 13 points each and were a combined 10 for 15 from the field.
“We came out really looking to establish our inside presence tonight, and I thought we were able to do that,” Somerset coach Jeff Cothron said. “I thought our kids did a really good job tonight of being patient and then looking inside and really moving the ball. Even our outside shots tonight, we got a lot of wide open looks and we made most of them.
Britt couldn’t say the same thing about Mercer (17-14), which was held under 50 points for only the second time this season by Somerset's 2-3 zone defense.
The Titans hit 10 of 22 3-point shots and shot 49 percent overall from the field against Southwestern, but they made only two of 16 attempts from behind the line and shot 36 percent overall against Somerset (20-9), which playeds Wayne County for the championship tonight.
“We didn’t move the ball. It seems like every time we caught the ball, we held it for a split-second too long instead of catching and reversing and making their defense move, and we settled for the outside shot — Tuesday night we hit it, and tonight we didn’t — instead of getting to the basket,” Britt said. “We did a better job of getting to the basket there late, and that’s why they got in foul trouble. That was the game plan coming in, they only play about six or seven, so take it to them and get them in foul trouble and make the game a little bit easier for us.”
Williams and Weddle fouled out in the fourth quarter, but by then it was too late. Somerset scored nine straight points to take its largest lead at 51-38 with 4 minutes, 52 seconds remaining, only a minute or so before Williams became the first to foul out.
Mercer trailed for all but 1:29 — the Titans’ only lead was at 2-0 — falling behind 16-7 when Somerset scored nine unanswered points in the final 2:20 of the first quarter.
And the Jumpers seemed to come up with a big shot every time the Titans threatened. John Ingram hit a 3-point shot midway through the second quarter — it would be his team’s last of the night — to pull Mercer within 18-14, but Ryan Dishman answered with a 3 on the other end.
Cam Cheuvront sank a 3 seconds after Mercer drew within 32-27 early in the third quarter, and Somerset led by 10 points less than 90 seconds later. The Titans recovered and responded with an 8-2 run, pulling within 42-38 on Jordan Duncan’s layup at the start of the fourth quarter, but that was followed by the 9-0 run that gave the Jumpers a commanding lead.
“These are young men, and for them to fight and fight and fight and then the other team to hit a big shot, it’s hard to keep mentally under control. And tonight Somerset was the better team,” Britt said.
Freshman Will Hager led Mercer for the second straight game, scoring 13 points in the second half to finish with 19 and grabbing a team-high six rebounds. Ingram scored nine points on 4-of-6 shooting, and Duncan added eight points, all in the second half.
Blake Pennington, who scored 16 points for the Titans against Southwestern, was held to five Friday.
Somerset shot 51 percent from the field after going 9 for 14 in the second half, and the Jumpers went 6 for 11 from 3-point range. They also outrebounded Mercer 31-23, led by Williams with eight rebounds and Weddle with six.