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Mercer 70 Essex 64.

Postgame audio - Coach Howie Levy:

Derek Williams scored 22 points and made seven free throws in the final two minutes as Mercer (18-12) held off a frantic Essex rally to advance to the semifinals of the Region XIX tournament.

"That was a terrific effort," said Vikings coach Howie Levy following the 70-64 victory. "The last two days of practice were major battles between me and my team after that Harcum game. There is a way that they had to play to be successful and they did it and they were able to overcome a couple of mistakes."

Mercer trailed only once, at 7-6, and proceeded to score the game's next nine points as they opened up early advantages of 16-6 and 25-8.

"We never gave back the lead," Levy said with pride. "We really hung in there. I loved the way they shared the ball tonight."

The visiting Wolverines responded with a 13-1 spurt of their own to close within five, but every time Essex reached striking distance, Mercer found room to breathe.

Leading by five at the break, the Vikings scored the first nine points of the second half. Williams hit from the left corner to make it a 10 point game and Williams' penetration freed Quentin Lofton up top for a 42-29 advantage.

Back-to-back three pointers from Essex guard Saladine Collins drew the Wolverines within 65-64 in the final minute and Collins immediately stole a pass in the backcourt as Essex pressed and drove for a layup that would have put his team back in front. The shot was short off the rim and Williams was fouled, making one of two free throws.

Jahmal Scarborough carried the ball trying to split two defenders as he spun inside and Williams went back at the line, extending the Mercer lead to four.

Uros Kovacevic added 16 points, six rebounds and five rebounds. Isiah Andrews had 17 points and five boards for Mercer.

"There's more basketball left to play," Levy remarked. Last year at this time the Vikings' season was over following a bitter one point first round Region XIX tournament loss to Manor.

Now Mercer travels to Scranton, PA on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 pm ET, where they will play Del Tech Stanton.

"There's more improvements these guys can make," Levy said with a smile. "We're happy."

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