East Jessamine certainly put up enough points to beat Mercer County in the team’s 46th District contest.
But the Jaguars could not overcome a big three-point shooting night from the Titans and fell 87-77.
“I know they’re a good offensive team. I know they shoot the ball really well,” East coach Chris O’Bryan said. “I thought the keys for us defensively, we didn’t do a good job on our closeouts, especially in the third quarter when they kept driving and our help-side rotation was late. So that’s the kind of things we need to work on.”
Timmy Bradshaw had 22 points and Taylor Harper added 21 for the Jaguars (5-2, 1-1 district), who trailed by 13 in the third quarter and by 10 entering the fourth quarter before trimming the lead to three.
Bradshaw hit two free throws to make it a 70-67 game with 5:03 to play.
But that was a close as the Jaguars would get. From there, Mercer proceeded to go 15-of-18 at the line to help seal the win as East never got closer than four the ret of the way. For the game, the Titans were 27-of-34 at the line and finished 25-of-52 from the floor.
“I like the fact we kept digging, kept clawing, kept fighting. But we have to look at how do we prevent those situations from happening?” O’Bryan said. “I feel offensively, we can score. But defensively, we’ve got to focus in, we’ve got to figure out how to guard people in the halfcourt, how to force them into the halfcourt and then how to sit down and guard them.”
The Jaguars were 25-of-52 from the floor but hit just 4-of-14 three-pointers, went 23-of-32 at the line and were outrebounded 32-21.
O’Bryan said his team needs to learn to seize opportunities when they arise.
“There’s a couple of situations we can look at execution-wise that we didn’t do a good job — just knowing where to be, but we’re learning those things. We’ve got a lot of young guys who didn’t get to play much last year,” he said. “But I’m proud of them; they’re battling and they fell down big early, and they cut it to three several times. So we had our chances, we’ve just got to learn to finish. That’s where experience wil hopefully pay off down the road.”
Mercer coach Brian Britt knows this may have been a game his team may not have won last season.
“We’ve grown up a lot. They’re a year older; they’re stronger; and as a coaching staff, we’ve done a great job of teaching them the game of basketball,” he said. “And it shows out there, and now that they understand and see that success in the win column, it makes them that much more dangerous.”
Two threes from Ingram and one each from Sims and Penning helped Mercer to its early 13-point cushion. A three-pointer from Davis made it 24-11, but the Jaguars got free throws from Mike Jones and Taylor Harper and a three-pointer from Bradshaw to cut the deficit to 24-16 after a quarter.
A steal from Sims led to a layup for Marcus Warren to push the lead to 31-20 with 4:25 left in the first half. East kept itself in the game; a three-pointer from Bradshaw made it 37-32 with 1:45 to go. But Mercer closed put the half on a 10-5 run, getting a three-pointer and free throw from Sims, layups from Davis and Tommy Craig and a steal and layup from Ingram to push the lead to 47-37 at the half.
Ingram opened the third quarter with a three-pointer to make it a 50-37 game.
East cut the lead back down to 50-46 with 5:36 left in the quarter on two layups from Kameren Reed, a three-pointer from Bradshaw and drive from Jones. Penning drilled three straight three-pointers as Mercer pushed its lead back to nine at 59-50 with 4:06 left in the third.
Up 63-58, Pennington scored on a drive, then converted a three-point play to give Mercer a 68-58 cushion going to the fourth quarter.
Jones had 14 points and Reed added 10 for East.
The Jaguars return home on Friday to face Frankfort at 6 p.m. The Panthers are 4-3.