Sunday, February 26, 2017

Tiger Boys Win 1st District Title Since 1983; Down Mercer

Worth County’s boys won their first district title in 33 years Friday night as they downed Mercer 67-58 to advance to the St. Joseph Civic Arena to play Braymer. The last time the Tigers had won a district, it was a regional tournament with up to 16 teams. Back in 1982-83, the Tigers were expected to have a showdown with Winston, who they beat 66-62 to win the Stanberry Tournament. But archrival Albany beat Winston 63-60, in a game in which then-Coach Don Gibson threw up the towel in celebration so high, it almost hit the ceiling. Worth County fell behind early against Albany, but fought back to take a 27-24 lead at halftime. They then proceeded to take control as Donnie Waldeier scored 34 of his 37 points in the second half as Worth County pulled away for the 71-55 victory.

Since then, Worth County had several runs to the finals, only to fall short. In 1984-85, the Tigers beat heavily favored Winston in the Regional Tournament 84-71 in Stanberry behind Kent Thompson after running away from North Andrew 101-51 in the opener and beating Stanberry 54-52 as the Bulldogs missed a last-second layup to send it to overtime. But they ran out of gas against King City and fell in the final 57-50 despite an incredible shot by Thompson from 30 feet out while surrounded by two King City defenders. The Tigers also fell short in 1995 to Jefferson, in 2003 to Mercer, and in 2007 to Putnam County when they were competing in Class 2.

In Friday night’s game, Mercer tried to set the tone early after Worth County had scored the first four points as one of the Mercer players knocked Ryan McClellan on his back as he was going in for a layup attempt. McClellan was shaken up and had to come out as Tiger Coach Bryce Schafer was enraged, but nothing was called. But after Cade Allee missed several shots to start the game, he was finally able to connect off a pass from Tevin Cameron with 3:12 left in the period to make it 9-4. Ryan McClellan came back in and hit a guarded 3-pointer off a pass from Mason hawk to make it 12-6 after one.

The margin stayed between four and nine points in the second as Tevin Cameron scored five in the period off a triple and another play where Jacob New dove on the floor to steal a ball and scoop it to Cameron for a layup; Drake Kinsella added six as his size was a big factor in the game. But Bryer Noe kept Mercer in the game with eight in the frame as Mercer trailed 26-22 at the half.
Two nights before, Mercer and North Harrison played to a 22-22 halftime tie, only for the Cardinals to score 29 points in the third quarter to dispose of the Shamrocks. Friday, it looked like it would repeat itself as they scored four quick points to tie it at 26. But then Drake Kinsella scored in transition, Cade Allee hit a triple off a pass from Kinsella, Drake Kinsella hit a free throw off a second chance, and Mason Hawk added a putback to make it 34-26 as the Cardinals had a long scoring drought.

A freshman, Camden Hartley, sparked Mercer as he knocked down a triple and Noe added a pair of free throws following a steal to make it 34-31, but that’s when Tevin Cameron stepped in. He added a triple from the left wing off a pass from Ryan McClellan, a layup following a steal of a jumped pass, and another triple off a pass from Kinsella. Cade Allee added a couple of free throws as Worth County pushed into double digits for the first time at 44-33.

Drake Kinsella’s free throw with 19 seconds left made it 48-36, but then Cashman Hartley hit a triple at the buzzer to bring Mercer back to under double digits at 48-39 and Noe followed with a baseline shot to make it 48-41 to start the fourth.

But once again, Worth County responded as Drake Kinsella converted a second chance putback and Jacob New hit Cade Allee inside to make it 52-41. Mason Hawk scored from inside off a pass from Cade Allee, Cade hit a triple after a long pass from Jacob New beat Mercer’s 1-2-2 trapping defense, and Hawk hit one of the longest shots of his career, a shot from the high post to make it 59-41 with 3:11 left. Mason Hawk added two blocks on the other end and Cade Allee one. Hawk had a career high 5 blocks for the night.

But all of a sudden, with a nearly superhuman effort, Mercer nearly made a game of it in the last three minutes. Hunter Shipley scored from inside and Cashman Hartley hit a guarded three to make it 60-46 with 2:11 left. Drake Kinsella hit two free throws for Worth County, missed a 1-1 following a stop, and got an offensive board. But then Hartley struck again and got a steal, layup, another steal off the 1-2-2 trap, and a triple to make it 62-51 with 1:09 left just like that.

Ryan McClellan hit two free throws with 59.7 seconds left, but Bryer Noe went to work, going to the rim and getting a layup. He got another one after another turnover and the lead was under double digits at 64-55 with 35 seconds left. Cade Allee hit a free throw with 26.1 seconds left, Worth County got a steal, but threw it away and Noe was there again to make it 65-58 with 16 seconds left.

Mercer elected to leave Mason Hawk open and then foul him, a tactic that Jefferson had used successfully in Albany. There was a heartstopping moment as the pass was thrown high, but Hawk came up with it right in front of the Mercer bench and was fouled with 6.7 seconds left. He made both his free throws this time and Worth County came away with the win.

“We’re in it together,” said Coach Bryce Schafer. “I told my players that we would be OK as long as we stuck together. Everyone played out of their minds tonight and our bench and fans were crazy. It took guts to play through Mercer’s runs, and I couldn’t be prouder.”

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