"We just had to come out with our heads high and just play ball," said Harrodsburg's Mark Dunn, who finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. "Hopefully we can go into districts as a No. 1 seed."
For Mercer, it was a step back after the Scotties finally got into the win column Tuesday against Burgin. Mercer (1-5, 1-1) shot just 32.7 percent (18-for-55) from the field and turned the ball over 19 times.
The Scotties had a makeshift lineup, as Andy Potts and Andrew McCloud stepped in for usual starters Clif Watkins and John Lyons. Mercer coach said the two were benched because of "internal stuff going on," but they entered the game after only six minutes, 37 seconds had elapsed.
At that time, Mercer led 9-8, but four consecutive points from Watkins to close out the period gave the Scotties a 13-8 lead. However, that's when Dunn and Robbie Merriman got hot. Neither had scored in the first period, both found themselves shooting in the second.
How important was that to Harrodsburg's chances?
"To coach, it was very important," Dunn said. "I had the ball in my hands, but I had people around me that were open. I'm not a ball-hog. I saw them open so I passed it. I wasn't too worried about my shots, because I figured they'd come."
They did indeed, as Dunn and Merriman combined to score 12 of Harrodsburg's 16 second-quarter points on the way to a 24-22 halftime lead.
Dunn had nine first-half rebounds, and Tatum said second chances were huge for his team.
"That was the best we've done all year long, especially in the first half," Tatum said. "I think that was definitely a key in the game."
After making just 32 percent of its first-half shots, Mercer hit 7 of 18 third-quarter attempts to rally from a 31-24 deficit to a 37-33 lead behind eight straight points from Jordan Lyons.
The game stayed within four points through the middle of the fourth quarter, when a basket by Mercer's Michael Bottoms tied the game at 43 with 3:22 to play.
However, Shane Webb scored a layup and Mariqus Brown had two baskets, a blocked shot and a key rebound in the final two minutes to help Harrodsburg hold on.
"Coach told us during practice that we need this game to get motivation," said Brown, who finished 5-of-7 from the field for 12 points. "Being a senior and being a leader, when it comes to crunch time I had to finish it off and put it in."
Harrodsburg finished the game 23 of 53 from the floor, a 43.3 percent mark. The Pioneers grabbed 33 rebounds and had 11 assists.
Watkins and Kameron McRay each scored nine points to lead Mercer, while Bottoms had a team-high seven rebounds.
Both Tatum and Edwards said they expect the battle for the 46th District title to come down to games like this.
"I don't think there's going to be anybody able to come into a game and breathe easy this year," Edwards said. "Along the same lines, in March that district tournament's going to be wild too. I don't think it matters if you're (seeded) one or four this year."
"All three district games are going to be like this right here," Tatum said. "Whoever makes the plays down the stretch will win the championship."
MERCER (1-5) - Clif Watkins 9, Kameron McRay 9, Jordan Lyons 8, Michael Bottoms 4, John Lyons 8, Andy Potts 2, Andrew McCloud 5.
HARRODSBURG (1-5) - Robbie Merriman 6, Shane Webb 6, Mariqus Brown 12, Mark Dunn 15, Travis White 2, Justin Doolin 8, Cory Jackson 1.