Youngsville builds big early lead, knocks off Mercer for program’s first playoff win in 28 years
Youngsville built a big lead early led wire-to-wire in a 57-45 District 10 Class 2A first round playoff win over visiting Mercer Friday.
It’s the first playoff win for the Youngsville program since the 1991-92 season.
The Eagles opened the game with a 12-2 run and never led by less than five the rest of the way. Youngsville had to rely on free throws down the stretch as the offense went cold in the second half with just four field goals in the final 16 minutes.
“We scored at will in the first half,” Youngsville coach Jesse DeLoof said. “In the second half we weren’t making good decisions from the middle. We were second-guessing
After a short feeling out process, Gage Hendrickson got the Eagles (18-5) going offensively with a pair of buckets on consecutive possessions. Following a Jake Mattocks field goal for the Mustangs (6-17), Hendrickson knocked down a 3-pointer then grabbed a defensive rebound and fired an outlet pass to Ethan Kesterholt streaking down the middle. Kesterholt made the layup and got the and-1 call. He hit the free throw to put Youngsville up 10-2 with 3:15 to play in the first.
After Timber Bower knocked down a pair of free throws with 2:30 to go, Mercer responded with five straight of their own to cut the lead to 12-7 with just over a minute to go in the frame. Bower, who recently returned from injury, answered with a corner three to give the Eagles a 15-7 lead after one.
“This game I felt 100 percent,” Bower said.
Youngsville opened things up in the second. Brady Olewine, Bower and Hendrickson all knocked down 3-pointers within the first three minutes to stretch the advantage to 24-9. Mercer cut the deficit to 26-15, but Youngsville got a free throw from Hendrickson and a 3-point play and field goal from Olewine to close out the half with a 32-15 lead.
“We want to maximize our possessions,” DeLoof said. “We made it so they couldn’t sit in the 3-2 zone and run clock.”
Mercer opened the second half with a 9-3 run to cut the lead to 35-24 with just over three minutes to go in the third.
For as hot as the Eagles were in the first half, they were just as cold in the second. They made just three field goals in the third quarter, two from Hendrickson and one from Bower, and were held to just seven points in the frame.
“When we got to the middle, we were second guessing,” DeLoof said.
The Eagles took a 39-27 lead into the fourth quarter.
Trumell Miller hit a three just 30 seconds in to get the Mustangs within single digits at 39-30. Olewine pushed the lead back to 10 when he went 1-2 from the line two minutes later. Bower drew a foul with 5:18 to play that put the Eagles in the bonus. Youngsville had just one field goal, an Olewine jumper with 2:21 to go, the rest of the way, but shot 22 free throws in the final five minutes.
“We missed a few there, but we got the job done,” Bower said.
DeLoof chalked up some of the offensive struggles to miscommunication.
“They weren’t sure if we were trying to run clock or going for more buckets,” he said. “That’s on me. I need to be more clear about what we’re doing.”
Mattocks had a team-high 16 points for the Mustangs. Logan Turton added 13 in the loss.
Bower had a game-high 18 points. Hendrickson added 17 and Olewine 13.
The Eagles advanced to the quarterfinals and a matchup with Rocky Grove next Friday at a time and location to be determined.
“Our defense is going to have to pick it up,” Bower said. “They’re a bit more of an offensive team (than Mercer).”
“They remind me a bit of Kane,” DeLoof added.
DeLoof said the Eagles will have an optional practice today and have a scrimmage with Warren set for Monday in Youngsville.
Though already focused on Rocky Grove, the magnitude of this win was not lost on the players.
“This win means so much,” Bower said. “Like Brady said (after the game), ‘This is what we worked for.’ It feels great.”
Turton 5-2-2-13, Mattocks 6-2-5-16, Pugh 1-0-0-2, Doolin 1-0-0-2, Ellison 1-0-0-2, Borowicz 2-0-0-6, Lawrence 0-1-2-1, Tru. Miller 1-0-2-3, Ealy 0-0-0-0, Grossman 0-0-0-0, Total 17-5-11-45
Hendrickson 5-3-6-17, Kesterholt 2-3-3-7, Olewine 4-4-5-13, Bower 3-10-14-18, Peterson 0-2-4-2, Mack 0-0-0-0, Dell 0-0-0-0, Total 14-22-32-57
Mercer 7 8 12 18 – 45
Youngsville 15 17 7 18 – 57
3-point FGs: Mercer (6)-Mattocks 2, Borowicz 2, Turton, Tru. Miller. Youngsville (4)-Bower 2, Hendrickson, Olewine.