It was the most points for an area player this year and helped Garrard (12-14) record its highest point total of the season. The Lions were averaging just 54.7 points a game before Thursday, but got nearly half that in the first four minutes of the game when they opened up a 20-6 lead.
It was Leavell's heroics in the second half, including a breakaway dunk off a steal in the third quarter, that helped Garrard win its first district title since 2001 and only its third overall. Garrard lost both earlier meetings to Mercer.
"After they started just leaving him open, we told him just to shoot it every time he got it," fellow senior Brandon Sebastian said.
Leavell burned Mercer (11-15) to start the third quarter. He hit 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions from the same spot on the left wing, taking Garrard from a 38-36 halftime deficit to a 45-43 lead with 5:19 to play in the third. Garrard wouldn't trail again.
Mercer coach Greg Edwards admitted Leavell was too much for his team to handle.
"We just had no answer for Sean Paul. He just went wild," Edwards said. "That was two games worth of points."
Leavell, who was averaging 13.8 points a game before the tournament started, hit 15 of 22 shots, grabbed seven rebounds and had three assists.
He said to play his final home game for a district championship, win the title and have the game he had was more than he could have hoped for.
"Never has a game given me this much feeling," Leavell said. "For me and my teammates to be able to win at home and cut down the nets, it's a great feeling."
A big victory after a rough season
It was a big victory for Garrard. The Lions had a starter leave the team in the middle of the season. Combs was then involved in an altercation with that player's father during a practice, and Combs said this season has been a testament to his team's ability to stay focused on what it wanted to accomplish.
"We said we were going to be district champions," Combs said. "At times during the season, it looked like we'd be lucky to get through the season with some of the things we went through. We got blistered several games by 40, 30, 20 points. But we never got away from what our goal was."
"Cecil has had a rough season with everything that's happened to him," Edwards said. "If we didn't win it, I told him I was glad he was able to win this thing."
It looked early like Garrard was going to walk, or run, away with the title. Garrard went on an 18-3 run to take a 20-6 lead.
However, a 3-pointer by sophomore Michael Bottoms started a 20-2 Mercer run that pushed the Scotties to a 26-22 lead.
"They're senior-dominated, we knew they were going to come out and probably get us early," Edwards said. "We had to withstand that. We were down 20-6 and then the next time I looked it was 22-20. We could have really been out of the game, but we battled back."
Mercer led by as many as eight in the second quarter, but Leavell's second half erased the Scotties' two-point halftime lead.
Sebastian finished with 14 points, Spencer Crutchfield had 13 points and six rebounds, and Dan Leavell scored 10 for Garrard. The Lions hit 30 of 60 shots for 50 percent and won the rebounding battle 34-29.
"It feels great," Sebastian said. "Going out district champs on your home court feels great."
Mercer shot 46 percent (24 of 52) and was led by John Lyons with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Bottoms added 16 and Kameron McRay scored 13.
Both teams advance to the 12th Region Tournament to be held at South Laurel next week. The draw is Saturday morning.
GARRARD (12-14) - Spencer Crutchfield 13, Sean Paul Leavell 36, Jake Cool 2, Zach Doan 1, Dan Leavell 10, Brandon Sebastian 14, Spencer Toler 7.
MERCER (11-15) - John Lyons 19, Kameron McRay 13, Daniel Goodpaster 2, John Wickliffe 2, Michael Bottoms 16, Jordan Lyons 9, Colby Warren 2, Calen Hazelwood 5.
Garrard County: Spencer Crutchfield, Spencer Toler, Sean Paul Leavell; Mercer County: Michael Bottoms, John Lyons; Burgin: Joe Harris; Harrodsburg: Shane Webb.