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Eagles’ first-half effort falls short as South Central runs away, 71-49

For the first 16 minutes of Thursday night’s boys basketball game between South Central and Lanesville in Elizabeth, the Eagles out-hustled, out-muscled and out-witted the No. 2-ranked hosts.
In the second half, it was South Central’s Mercer — not 6-7 junior Brian, but his younger brother, sophomore Brad Mercer — who sparked the team to play more like the squad that deserved to be ranked No. 2 in Class A. Mercer’s seven points and two steals in the third period got the Rebels running and turned the tide against Lanesville, 71-49.
The Eagles (5-4) were in the hole early, 8-3, but came back on threes by Justin Ferguson and Nic Acton to take a 13-11 lead with 50 seconds left in the first quarter and 15-14 at the buzzer.
Lanesville’s Matt Schickel gave his team its biggest lead of the game on a short jumper, but Brian Mercer hit two free throws and Jared Wilkerson added an old-fashioned triple to put South on top.
The clubs traded leads three more times before Aaron Vaught took an assist from Craig Schoen with 2:44 left in the half. The score, followed by Schoen’s first field goal a few ticks later, put the Rebels ahead for good.
Vaught, classmate Mercer and Schoen sandwiched six points around a free throw by Ferguson to start the second half, but it was the defensive play by Brad Mercer that got the Rebels off and running with three straight steals and a lay-in to go up 43-29. With Mercer’s help, the Eagles were forced into four turnovers in the first 3:40 of the half after coughing up the ball only six times in the first. Lanesville never got back on track.
Nic Acton led the Eagles with 13 points with Ferguson scoring seven and Schickel, Josh Walter and Denny all scoring six apiece.
“In the first half, we played pretty well, but our turnovers led to a lot of easy baskets in the second half. The transition defense in the first half was a lot better than in the second half,” Lanesville coach Mikel Miller said.
“Right now we’re 5-4, and with a couple of plays here or there, we could be at 6-3 or 7-2. I’m proud of what we’ve done so far and where we are. We played with South Central for a half, and I think we proved that we have the ability to play a team like them in the future. They’re probably the favorite to win the sectional.”
Miller heralded the defensive play of Schickel, Nic Geswein and Michael Noon in holding Schoen without a field goal for much of the first half and under his average for the game.
“They talked about where he was on the court, let everyone know on the defensive switches and did everything they could to make life difficult for him,” Miller admitted. “In the second half, he just flat broke us down. He’s an excellent ball player, and that’s what good ball players do.”
South, led by Brian Mercer’s 19 points, shot 27 of 59 for the game while Lanesville was held to 16 of 50, including 5-21 on three-point tries. Rebounds and turnovers were nearly even with both clubs fumbling the ball 14 times and the hosts winning the war on the glass, 35-32.
Schoen scored 18 on 6-7 shooting at the line; Vaught had 17 despite being in foul trouble, and Brad Mercer added nine points with the team’s only three-pointer on the night.
Rebel coach Greg Robinson said the expectations are high for his ball club, especially after being pegged No. 2 in Class A ball.
“People come into this gym expecting to see something flashy or an awesome display every time out, and it’s just not going to happen. We scored 71 points tonight and didn’t shoot the ball well. We seemed to grind it out. We still get up and down the court and have our moments where we really get things going, but it’s a different pace for this ball club,” Robinson said. “The last two teams we played were averaging 70 points, and we held them both to 50.”
South’s skipper singled out Brad Mercer.
“He was huge coming out of the gate in the second half. He was looking like Craig out there, stealing the ball, making our only three of the night. He hadn’t practiced a whole lot this week because of an ankle injury, but he really got after it tonight, and I think everyone picked up on his play and that lit a fire under us.”
The Rebels were 16 of 22 at the line while Lanesville hit 12 of 20 attempts.
South to play in Super Hoops
The Rebels will take their No. 2 ranking to the highly-competitive Super Hoops Tournament this week in Indianapolis.
South Central will play Northeastern at Center Grove on Dec. 28 (not the 27th, as reported last week). That game will be followed by the Mishawaka Marion-North Daviess matchup. The winner of South’s game will play Merrillville at 6 p.m., with the loser playing at 4:30 on Dec. 29 against the loser of the Mishawaka Marian/North Daviess contest.
Regardless of how the rest of the tournament goes, the Rebels will play in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse on the Butler University campus at some point on Jan. 1.
Two-day tickets are $12 at the door; however, South Central will sell tickets for $10 for the two-day pass. A portion of advance ticket sales will go to South’s athletic department.
All tickets for the final round of Super Hoops will be sold at the door of Hinkle Fieldhouse and the tickets are good for all day. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for students and include six varsity games on Jan. 1.
To see a complete bracket rundown, log onto the Internet go to: www.inhoops.com/nyc/bracket.html
Directions to Center Grove H.S.:
Basketball fans heading to Center Grove for Super Hoops have two logical options for travel:
From Interstate 65: Take Interstate 65 to Exit 99. Turn west on Main Street to Emerson Avenue. Turn left on Emerson Avenue and continue around the Valle Vista Country Club. Emerson Avenue becomes Smith Valley Road. Continue on Smith Valley Road to S. R. 135. Turn left on 135 and continue south to Stones Crossing Road. Turn west on Stones Crossing Road to Center Grove High School.
From S.R. 135 (the scenic route): Take 135 north to Stones Crossing Road in Greenwood. Turn west two miles to Center Grove High School.

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