Mercer County barely holds off Burgin rally

December 17, 2003|MARTY WARREN

BURGIN - Burgin coach Don Irvine got the shot he wanted, but Sean Bottoms' 3-point attempt at the final horn was off the mark as Mercer County held off the Bulldogs 45-43 here Tuesday night.

Burgin (2-2, 1-1 46th District) trailed by 13 points in the fourth quarter only to pick up its defensive intensity and gradually chip away at the Scotties' lead. Mercer helped the Bulldogs' cause by rushing shots in the final stanza, going 1-for-11 from the field.

"We were up 13 early in the fourth quarter and we may have gotten tired," Mercer coach Greg Edwards said. "I wanted to work the ball inside some because I felt like we had a couple mismatches, but we kept shooting away from 3-point range. We kept missing and they started to pick up their defensive pressure and we were lucky to get out of here with a win.

"This is a tough environment to play in and they have been on a roll lately. They were 1-0 in the district with the big win over Garrard County and we knew we would have our hands full."


Irvine said that he was pleased with his defense, but said his team would have to shoot free throws better - the Scotties were 10 of 20 against Mercer - to be successful.

"We're small and scrappy and we told the kids we had to shoot our free throws better. That's the key," the Burgin coach said. "If we shoot better, we'll win more games. If we don't, we will continue to lose by two or three points every night."

Leading only 21-18 at the half, Mercer (1-4, 1-0) got a goal from Michael Bottoms and putback by John Lyons to lead 25-18 early in the third quarter.

The Scotties got two 3-pointers from Jordan Lyons and one each by Clif Watkins and Cameron McRay over the next two minutes to go on top 37-24.

Watkins' old-fashioned three-point play gave Mercer its largest lead at 40-24. Burgin cashed only two of six free throws and got a basket by Zack Gross during the final minute to trail 40-28 after three periods.

Burgin forced three straight turnovers and Mercer missed four straight 3-point tries over the next five minutes to allow the Bulldogs to get into the game.

Burgin hit six straight free throws - two each by Daniel Howard, Joe Harris and Bottoms - and buckets by Gross and reserve Jordan Darland to trim the lead to 41-38 with three minutes to play.

After the two teams traded points to make the score 45-42, Burgin called timeout and there was a lengthy delay over the direction of the possession arrow. After play resumed, John Lyons missed the front end of the bonus and Darland cashed one of two attempts for Burgin to trim the lead to 45-43 with 22 seconds left.

Once again, Mercer's Watkins missed the front end of the bonus with nine seconds to play. Bottoms set up with no one around him for a three-point try with two seconds left, but the shot didn't fall.

Edwards, who won his first game as a head coach since he was the head man at Harrodsburg in 1997, had visions of another tough loss when the shot left Bottoms' hands.

"I thought it was in when it left his hands," Edwards said. "When the horn finally went off, I raced down the floor to shake Don's hand and got off the floor. We're happy to get out of here with a win."

Despite the loss, Irvine was pleased with some aspects of the game.

"Some years back, you would have thought I was crazy when I talked about Burgin playing defense," Irvine said. "But now I think the kids know that it is an important part of the game. It helped us get back in the game tonight, and if I can get a shot like we had at the end of the game at district tournament time, I'll gladly take it. Our effort was there, and we'll learn from this game."

Neither team shot the ball well. Mercer made only 17 of 57 tries for 30 percent while Burgin hit 16 of 56 attempts for 29 percent. Both team pulled off 44 rebounds as Watkins led the Scotties with 11 while Joe Harris pulled off nine missed shots for Burgin. The Bulldogs turned the ball over 20 times compared to 17 for Mercer.

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