Mercer boys add to postseason resume by beating Lincoln

Published 5:57 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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HARRODSBURG – When you put together your list of contenders for the boys 12th Region title, make sure Mercer County is on it.

The Titans already believed they belong in that group of a half-dozen or more teams, and their confidence was bolstered Friday night by a 63-46 victory over Lincoln County.

It was perhaps their most convincing win yet, serving to convince both them and others that they can be a factor in the coming postseason.

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“This will really give us a whole lot of confidence going into region,” Mercer forward Trevor Ellis said. “This is really helping us get everybody playing together and seeing that we can beat these good teams. We know we can beat them; we’ve just got to go out there and do it.”

A decisive win over another team that might well be on that list is another significant step in the growth that Mercer coach Keith Adkins said he has seen in his team over the course of the season.

“We’ve grown a lot, I think, in the last several months,” Adkins said. “The guys have picked up exactly what I want, they believe in what we’re doing and what we’ve convinced them we need to do to be successful, and then they run with it.”

Host Mercer (17-10) ran away from Lincoln (15-11) in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Patriots 21-5 over a span of about six minutes to push the margin past 20 points.

Lincoln coach Jeff Jackson said the Titans were the better team from the beginning.

“We got outworked, we got outplayed, we got outcoached, we got outprepared. We didn’t bring any energy,” Jackson said. “They wanted to win and we didn’t, and we didn’t do anything that we needed to do to put ourselves in a position to win.”

Ellis scored 28 points to lead the Titans, who had lost six straight games to the Patriots since last beating them in the 2017-18 season.

“Lincoln has been a big rivalry for a long time,” Ellis said. “All through middle school, they always beat us by 30, so it’s good to get them back.”

Mercer led 42-36 before its clinching run, which included seven points by Ellis and six each by Kaleb Murray and John Lincoln Perry, who finished with 15 and 10 points.

The Titans went 6 for 8 from the field in the fourth quarter and shot 58 percent in the second half and 48 percent overall from the field against one of the region’s stingiest defenses.

“Coach Adkins had a great scouting report on their defense. We put in a couple of new sets for them, specifically for this game, that worked well, so I’ve got to give it to Coach on that one,” Ellis said.

Much of the offense went through Ellis, the second-leading scorer in the 12th Region at 20.4 points per game. He got a number of his points around the basket, as he typically does, but he also went 4 for 4 from 3-point range.

“I thought he was aggressive looking for 3s tonight, and just because you’re aggressive looking for 3s doesn’t mean you have to shoot it. But when he’s that aggressive and guys have to come out away from the rim to guard him, it changes things,” Adkins said.

Adkins said Ellis was a game-changer on both ends of the floor, just as he has been all season long.

“I’ve just not seen a lot of high school kids affect the game the way he does,” Adkins said. “I’ve seen better plays, I’ve seen a lot worse players, but he really affects the game with the way he changes things on the defensive end, his ability to step out on the offensive end and his rebounding.”

Lincoln shot 37 percent from the field and never led after the first quarter. The Patriots trailed by seven points at halftime and fell behind by double digits early in the second half.

The Patriots had won 11 of 14 games after a 4-7 start, but Jackson said this loss showed there is much work to be done during the final week of the regular season, and he said some of that work must be done by the team’s seniors.

“We’ve got to have good leadership from our seniors,” he said. “Our walk-through today and our preparation for tonight’s game was not good. We weren’t focused, and I told our staff on the way over it just wasn’t a good prep day. … We have to try to get ready between now and the district tournament.”

Sawyer Robbins scored 12 points and Blade Nuckols added 10 to lead Lincoln.