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Mercer 60 Morris 47.

Postgame audio - Coach Howie Levy:

Perhaps it is because the pall of Saturday night in Providence still hangs heavy over my head, but walking away from tonight's Region XIX quarterfinal between County College of Morris and Mercer County Community College I felt like I had been at the most enjoyable basketball game I'd attended this season.

While the fourth-seeded Vikings (15-15) had just one field goal in the opening nine minutes and trailed by as many as 13 to the fifth-seeded Titans in front of a festive, opinionated and energetic home crowd, coach Howie Levy's team always seemed two possessions away from gaining control of the game.

Mercer was 1-15 from three in the opening 20 minutes, including a slew of quality looks. Brandin Youngblood's trey at the horn came up well short of the target, an appropriate end to the half - one which saw the Vikings trail 29-16 at intermission.

The second stanza was, in the words of Levy, "something very special. That's one of the best things I've been around in a long time."

Rodney Walters' spinning drive was the first basket of a 10-0 Mercer run to open the final frame. Good inside/out play set up Jon Jernigan at the top of the arc for three. A technical foul on Morris' Jaleel Hatcher for admonishing the referee with a pointed finger and an offensive foul pushing off Anthony Obery under the Vikings' basket on an inbounds by the Titans' Rodney Clervil sparked the run.

The play by Obery was one of six offensive fouls Obery generated, including multiple charges and shoves to the body. "I've never seen anything like that," Levy said with pride. Obery finished with five assists and a game-high 19 points, one of four MCCC players in double figures.

Mercer tied the score on a drive with 11:30 to go and took their first lead of the ballgame on a pair of Obery free throws with 9:36 remaining.

Youngblood's overload of the Morris zone at the free throw line set up Gary Carthan on the left wing for three and Carthan - playing his first game since popping out his shoulder at Salem in late January - launched a high trajectory triple off a hand-off screen on the right side for a 46-40 Mercer advantage.

"I felt so happy for him," Levy said of his emotional leader. "He's been itching to play for three weeks already."

With the lead at two possessions, Mercer put the ball in the hands of Walters and let him create from the top of the arc, attacking in a 1-2-2 set. On multiple occasions Walters was able to snake into the lane with his body low to the floor and set up teammates or create space up to the rim. A dish to Obery drew contact and a basket. A reverse dribble drive made it 56-45 Vikings with 1:18 to go.

"[Rodney] really controlled the game there at the end," acknowledged Levy. "He knew when to go and when to run our stuff. He used enough of the clock. It was really, really nice to see."

After being down by 13 at the break, Mercer won the second half 44-18.

The Vikings advance to play top-seeded Lackawanna in Scranton on Friday. When these two teams met last Thursday, Mercer trailed by one at the half but ultimately by 30.


-Mercer's women's team donned cheerleader outfits and sported yellow and green pom poms for the night.

-After shooting 25% from the floor in the first half (7-28), the Vikings hit 50% of their shots in the second (15-30). Comparatively, Morris was 3-19 from the floor (15.8%) over the final 20 minutes.

larry said,

February 22, 2011 @ 7:27 pm

Wasn't Coach Levi considered the 'centers' coach during his time at Princeton? Do the Tigers have a 'centers coach' now?

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