NJ - If the Mercer men's basketballl team had managed to play
together just another week or two, they might have earned
the trip to the nationals that they were working towards all
at their record tells the story. At the mid-winter break,
they were 6-9; at the end of January, they were 9-14. But
in the final weeks, they came on strong, winning five of their
last seven regular season games. One of their special strengths,
notes Head Coach Howard Levy, was how many players consistently
added to the team totals.
first" effort was led by Anthony Obery, who averaged
12.1 points per game, followed by Jermaine Emanuel (11.8 ppg),
Rodney Walters (11.1 ppg), Jonathan Jernigan (10.9 ppg), and
Gary Carthan (10.8 ppg).
14-16 record at the end of the regular season, the Vikings
entered the Region 19 tournament as the #4 seed, but they
were clearly ready to exceed expectations. They faced the
County College of Morris in the quarterfinal played at Mercer
on Feb. 21. Having lost to Morris by 9 points in December
and then beaten Morris 57-55 on Feb. 10, the outcome was anybody's
guess. And things weren't looking good at the half, with Mercer
down by 11. But the Vikings came back in the second half for
an impressive 60-47 win. Levy told his ecstatic players, "What
you did tonight was amazing."
the semi-finals, hosted by Lackawanna Junior College on Feb.
25. Of the four teams still in contention -- Salem CC and
Del Tech Stanton faced off in the other semi-final -- Mercer
was pitted against # 1-seeded Lackawanna, who had trounced
the Vikings 85-55 just two weeks before on Feb. 17.
Vikings played their best ball of the season when it mattered
most. Tied 81-81 with less than a minute to play, Emanuel
passed the ball to Jernigan after a Lackawanna turnover with
just seven seconds left. Jernigan sank the shot at the buzzer
for the 83-81 win. Walters scored a game-high 24 points for
Mercer and Emanuel was right behind with 23.
the season came to a disappointing end in the final on Feb.
27, as the Vikings lost 76-68 to Del Tech Stanton. With the
loss, the Vikings fell just short of repeating as Region 19
I'm disappointed that we didn't win the championship game,
I'm very proud of this team," Levy said. "To beat
Lackawanna on their home court to make the final was an incredible
achievement. I don't think there were too many people who
thought we had a chance to make the finals."
Levy says he can not think of a team that improved as much
as this one over the course of one season. "I will particularly
miss our second-year players, Gary Carthan, Anthony Obery,
Jon Jernigan and Arlington Rowley. All of them made important
contributions to our program, and have grown tremendously
as players and as people."
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