The Mercer boys’ basketball team did not find it easy in their return to the court in 2020.
The Tigers fell to two non-conference teams. First, they lost 55-30 to Phelps on Friday, Jan. 3. Then, they were edged 56-55 to Goodman-Pembine on Tuesday.
It came down to the wire against the Patriots in what coach Adam Milled called “probably the best basketball we’ve played all season.”
The Tigers had a one point lead with 23 seconds left in the game. They had possession of the ball but turned it over. Then the Patriots turned the ball over before the Tigers gave it right back to them.
Once the Patriots re-possessed the ball, they ended up drawing a foul and got sent to the free throw line. From there, they made one free throw to tie the game up at 53-53.
Looking to take the lead, it was the Tigers’ turn to get fouled. In contrast to their opponent, they missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity.
The Patriots came down the court and hit a 3-pointer, leaving three seconds on the clock.
Down 56-53, Miller set up a play that he’s always wanted to call.
“We called a timeout with three seconds to go and I reached into my bag of tricks,” Miller said.
It ended up working, but Jacob Schmidt ended up going for just a 2-pointer.
“We set it up perfectly. I’m not sure if he had to time to back up and shoot a 3-pointer,” Miller said.
Even though the Tigers outscored them 38-29 in the second half, the 3-pointer at the end proved to be the difference as the Patriots got out with a 56-55 win.
“That was our best basketball losing by one,” Miller said. “We turned a corner and we’re going to start playing ball now.”
Since Miller decided to go back to the old offense and defense, the Tigers struggled out of the gates a bit in the first half. They were down 27-17 at halftime. Things started to click more in the second half.
“The first half had not very good ball movement, too quick of shots, but it finally clicked back and that is what happened,” Miller said.
The Tigers finished with two players in double figures. Schmidt led the team with 21 points and four 3-pointers. Kobe Hiller recorded 14 points. Devin Losh played in just his second game of the season and finished with seven points.
“Devin Losh played an excellent game,” Miller said.
Things were not clicking in the Tigers’ loss to Phelps. Both the offense and defense struggled in the game.
“We didn’t play good basketball at all,” Miller said. “(We) got beat to a team that we could probably beat 8-9 times out of 10. We didn’t play good team basketball.”
Hiller led the Tigers with 19 points which included six baskets, two of them 3-pointers and five-six shooting at the line.
Next, the Tigers hosted Butternut on Thursday. Coverage of that game will be in the Jan. 14 edition of The Times
Then they play Monday, Jan. 13 at Drummond starting at approximately 7 p.m.
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]