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Men's Basketball Team Upsets Lackawanna in Semis,
But Falls to Del Tech in Final


West Windsor, 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 season.

A look 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.

That "team 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).

With a 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."

Next were 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.

But the 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.

Unfortunately 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 Champions.

"While 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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All-Region 19 forward Gary Carthan, left, during the semi-final
contest against Lackawanna. Photo courtesy of Mike Rennick.

Sidelines strategy with Coach Levy. Photo courtesy of Mike Rennick.
Brandin Youngblood goes for the block.
Photo courtesy of Mike Rennick.
Rodney Walters at the basket.
Photo courtesy of Mike Rennick.

Buzzer beating comeback creates jubilation on the sidelines.
Photo courtesy of Mike Rennick.