12th Region basketball: Pulaski races past Mercer in fourth quarter

Published 3:43 pm Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Two sharp turns were one too many for Mercer County.

The Titans rode a major momentum swing to a double-digit lead in the third quarter Monday night, but a second swing sent them into the ditch as Pulaski County passed them by on the way to the finals.

Pulaski scored 19 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to hand Mercer a 54-46 defeat in the semifinals of the boys 12th Region Tournament.

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The Maroons turned a 42-35 deficit into a 51-42 lead while they held the Titans scoreless for seven minutes from the early seconds of the period to the final minute.

Mercer (22-12), playing in its first regional final since 2018, had eight consecutive empty trips after John Lincoln Perry sank a 3-point shot on its opening possession. Within those were six turnovers that led directly to nine points for Pulaski (22-10), the defending champion and tournament host.

After Pulaski’s Will Blankenship hit two free throws with 57 seconds remaining, Perry ended the Mercer drought with a layup at :45.

Two missed free throws by the Maroons allowed the Titans to pull within 51-46 on a layup by Kaleb Murray at :29, but Mercer got no closer.

Pulaski was also the dominant team early in the game, but Mercer authored two significant runs to erase an early deficit in the first half and take control of the game in the third quarter.

The Titans trailed 18-7 before outscoring the Maroons 15-2 over a span of 7:16 to take their first lead at 22-20 with 1:48 left in the second quarter.

Trevor Ellis, who led Mercer with 16 points and 10 rebounds, scored seven of those points during that run and seven more during a 15-0 run in the third quarter that gave the Titans their largest lead at 37-26 with 2:28 left in the period.

Mercer shot 49 percent from the field but was just 3 for 13 from 3-point range; Pulaski shot 45 percent overall and was 6 for 12 from behind the line.

Blankenship led Pulaski with 17 points.

Murray scored 12 points for Mercer.