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Anderson County has known all along that the current basketball season would be a work in progress.
Mercer County showed why Friday night as the Titans used a 12-0 run in the third quarter to break open a tie game on the way to a 60-43 win over host Anderson.
“They have been playing together a long time. They have so much experience and saw what we were giving them,” Anderson coach Glen Drury said. “We are not totally on the same page yet.”
Mercer repeatedly took advantage of Anderson defensive lapses for easy baskets during the spree.
With the score deadlocked at 23, Mercer's Austin Seagraves scored eight consecutive points to start the run. Seagraves also nailed a huge 3-pointer as the horn sounded to end the first half.
“That 3-pointer was huge,” said Drury. Anderson had just taken a 19-16 lead on a layup by Logan Woodside. Woodside failed to convert a three-point play, however.
“Right now, I like having the defense in front of me because we are so inexperienced,” Drury said. “In the second half, our offense was in front of (the bench). It was a lack of experience on our part.”
Anderson, which went scoreless for nearly four minutes, was never closer than eight the rest of the way. The Bearcats fell to 1-2, while Mercer improved to 2-1.
Seagraves led all scorers with 19 points.Woodside scored 13 to lead Anderson.
Early, it looked like Anderson would be able to stay with Mercer, a team given a good shot at winning the 12th Region.
During the first 16 minutes, the teams traded six lead changes and had a pair of ties. Anderson held the longest lead of the first half at 7-3. But early, Anderson missed numerous easy shots that would come back to haunt the Bearcats. Anderson also hit just 10 of 19 free throws on the night.
But things were ragged on both ends as neither team could generate any continuity in their offense. Anderson was charged with 17 turnovers on the night, while Mercer had 15.
The Bearcats, already perhaps the most inexperienced unit Drury has had in 23 years at the helm, is without Ethan Kelly, the projected starter at point guard. Kelly has not practiced since football season was over and is nursing a knee injury. He could be lost for the season.
To compound matters in the first half, Erik Newton, Anderson's only returning starter from last year, went to the bench with two fouls with 4:12 to play in the first quarter.
“The kids understand that we have got to develop,” Drury said. “We are getting better. This was the best we have played this year.”
There were times when the Bearcats seemed to try to take matters into their own hands individually or try to do more than they could rather than work the offense to allow the game to flow to them. “We did,” Drury said, “but we are getting better. When you are building, here are stages of the building. Eventually those stages will put you in a position to win.
“I am very proud of the kids. They played hard for 32 minutes.”