Road work pays off for Mercer boys at Garrard

January 07, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

LANCASTER - There's no place like home, but this was the next best thing for the Mercer County boys.

The Scotties made themselves right at home at Garrard County, establishing themselves in the first half and grinding it out in the second for a 56-53 victory Tuesday night.

It was a sign that some of the travel might be paying off for a Mercer team that hasn't played a home game yet.

"We've been preaching to the kids that our schedule is murderous, but it's going to pay off for us down the road," Mercer coach Greg Edwards said. "We made a lot of strides over Christmas. The thing we've got to do now is keep getting better."


Mercer (4-6, 2-1 46th District) saw a 13-point halftime lead shrink to two in the fourth quarter, but the Scotties held on to win for the third time in four games.

They won two of three games in last week's Hazard Invitational to start their current roll.

"We played some decent teams down there, and that helped our confidence," said sophomore Michael Bottoms, who came off the bench to lead Mercer with 14 points.

The Scotties stormed into the lead late into the first period, and their momentum wasn't stopped until midway through the third period. Even though Garrard (6-5, 0-2) got back in the game, coach Cecil Combs said the Lions were clearly outplayed.

"We did not play very well," Combs said. "There was no intensity, no fire in their eyes. We were outhustled. They got to loose balls that we couldn't get our hands on."

Mercer also forced 21 turnovers and outrebounded Garrard 43-36.

The Scotties struggled at the free-throw line, going 7-for-13 overall and 6-for-11 in the fourth quarter. But Bottoms hit the ones that mattered most down the stretch, going 5-for-6 in the final 32 seconds.

Garrard was just as shaky at the stripe, where the Lions were 6-for-11 in the fourth quarter and 14-for-23 overall.

"That's not acceptable," Combs said. "Kids just don't focus on free throws any more. We missed five free throws in the fourth quarter. That's enough to win the game."

Garrard shot 37.3 percent (19-for-51) from the field and gave up 14 offensive rebounds, allowing Mercer, which shot 37.1 percent (23-for-62), to get 11 more shots.

Still, the Lions got three chances to tie the game or take the lead after pulling within 43-41 with 4:45 to play.

They didn't convert on any of them, and they didn't get another chance, though they got within two points again in the final minute.

"We had a little slide in the third quarter, but we showed we know how to finish at the end," Bottoms said.

Bottoms scored seven points and Kameron McRay scored three in a 12-0 spurt that left Mercer leading 18-10.

Mercer pulls away in second quarter

The Scotties closed the first half with another eight straight points to take a 29-16 lead as Garrard was shut out for the final 5:25 of the second period.

"You can't wait until the second half to try to get back in the game," Combs said. "We did a nice job to get back into the game in the third quarter, but we didn't have enough energy to finish the game."

Leavell lead Garrard with 14 points and nine rebounds, and Spencer Crutchfield added 11 points. They had 10 and seven points, respectively, in the second half, and reserve Spencer Toler had seven of his nine points and all seven of his rebounds after halftime.

"We need to find a leader," Combs said. "I want someone to put us on his back and carry this team."

Mercer got a lift from its bench, especially in the second quarter.

"I thought they really set the tempo, and then the starters came back in and picked up where those guys left off," Edwards said.

Daniel Goodpaster had 10 points and five rebounds off the bench, while John Lyons led the starters with eight points and Clif Watkins had a game-high 10 rebounds.

The Scotties still have one more game and six days left before their home opener, and they're hoping all those bus rides will pay off.

"This is one tough schedule, but we're home a lot at the end, and it's going to make us better," Bottoms said. "It has to."

MERCER (4-6) - John Lyons 8, Andrew McCloud 3, Clif Watkins 7, Kameron McRay 6, Jordan Lyons 6, Calen Hazelwood 2, Michael Bottoms 14, Daniel Goodpaster 10.

GARRARD (6-5) - Dan Leavell 9, Michael Dick 2, Sean Paul Leavell 14, Spencer Crutchfield 11, Jake Cool 1, Coy Lucas 3, Brandon Sebastian 4, Spencer Toler 9.

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