The Mercer girls’ basketball team continued its season with a couple of games yielding different results.
First they lost 61-60 in overtime to Mellen on Friday, Dec. 6. It was Mercer’s first conference game.
Then they took on Bayfield Tuesday night, winning 58-48.
The Tigers were up eight with about three minutes to go until they got a little sloppy with their turnovers. Mellen came storming back and ended up tying it in regulation.
“Our biggest problem was our turnovers,” coach Vic Saeger said. “(We) continued to make some bad passes and freshman mistakes.”
The game went to overtime tied at 54-54.
In overtime, the Tigers had another lead. Up three, Mellen came back yet again and this time took the lead for good.
The Tigers were ahead 60-59 in overtime when they fouled Mellen on an offensive rebound. That sent Mellen to the line where they made both free throws to take a one point lead with four seconds left.
Ava Barton did get a chance to take a half court shot. It did not go in and the game was over.
“We had an opportunity,” Saeger said. “Both teams played hard and both teams made mistakes. A really close game between two really close-matched teams.”
Starting slow, coach Saeger decided to use his press once the Tigers got down 11-1. That helped them get back in the game as they took an eight point lead at the half.
“I wanted to come back with our press which was pretty effective,” he said.
Mellen started to figure out the Tiger press as the game went on. On top of that, the Tigers struggled to inbound the ball and get it up the court late in the game.
“The second half they figured the press a little bit and how to break it. It wasn’t as effective,” Saeger said. “(We) struggled to get the ball inbounds. We just lacked confidence and that’s how they got back into it.”
Zoe Botes led the team with 25 points followed by Ava Barton with 14. Freshman KD Knipp finished with 10 points and Aubrey Schoeneman had nine.
It was a slow start to the game against Bayfield. Both teams missed shots and turned the ball over multiple times. Five and a half minutes in, the score was tied at 3-3.
“We did not have much luck offensively. (It was a) combination of turnovers and we couldn’t get the ball inside,” Saeger said.
Schoeneman had a good start to the game. She scored six points in the first half. The Tigers could only muster 12 first half points.
“We couldn’t, we weren’t swinging the ball quickly enough,” Saeger said. “We weren’t passing.”
It looked like the game would be close heading into halftime until Bayfield exploded for two 3-pointers towards the end of the half. They led 26-12 at half.
It was a tale of two halves. The Tigers came out aggressive in the second half and changed the game.
Right away Botes had a basket. Then Ella Torkelson followed that up with a score herself. One of the Tigers’ rare 3-pointers came from Ava Barton at the top of the key. Then Knipp had a steal and a score.
Bayfield quickly called a timeout. Four minutes into the half, the Tigers had gone on a 12-0 run to make it a 26-24 game.
“We had practiced Russia offense, picking it up from UConn’s coach (Geno Auriemma),” Saeger said. “Run low post and high post and try to move the ball as fast as we could.”
The Tigers kept coming at them. Botes made a shot and got fouled, making the free throw. Then Ava Barton had a steal for a score. Botes followed that up with a basket on an inbounds play. Botes finished with 15 points.
The Tigers’ press helped contribute to the quick scoring. They were able to frazzle Bayfield and get easy baskets.
“The diamond press won the game for us,” Saeger said.
The scoring continued with a Knipp basket. Bayfield called another timeout as the Tigers led 36-27. They had gone on another 12-1 run.
After that timeout, there came a stretch of play where Ava Barton scored four straight baskets for the Tigers. She ended up scoring 19 points.
“She was kind of the key to that whole press,” Saeger said.
With about seven minutes left, the Tigers were in the bonus. They took advantage and took many free throws down the stretch.
Trying to come back in the game, Bayfield’s Leala LaPointe made a 3-pointer to cut the Tiger lead to 10. It was 54-44. LaPointe finished with 23 points, making six 3-pointers.
The Tigers put the finishing touches on the game with late free throws by Ava Barton and Torkelson. When it was all said and done, the Tigers finished with 46 second half points, compared to just 12 in the first half.
“The girls played unbelievably, did an unbelievably good job,” Saeger said.
Their next game comes Friday, Dec. 13 at Solon Springs starting around 7 p.m.
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]