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TITANS OUTLAST WARRIORS: Southwestern falls in first round of region

Mar. 7—The Southwestern Warriors had an underdog feeling heading into Wednesday night's clash against the Titans of Mercer County. The same underdog feeling that surrounded the team back in 2018, when they made an unlikely run to the regional title. But on this day, who would be stronger, a Warrior or a Titan?

Early on, it looked like both teams were evenly matched, although neither team could barely buy a bucket in the early stages of the ball game. Southwestern was hampered too on both sides of the court by an injury sustained by Zach Hutchinson in the district title game, with Hutchinson playing limited minutes in this one. However, Mercer County eventually outfought Southwestern and pulled away with a 55-42 win that eliminated the Warriors from the postseason.

Junior big man Trevor Ellis scored the first two points of the contest from the free throw line, before a steal from Collin Hibbard soon after awarded him two free throws as well. After making both, the game was tied. Hibbard had the first field goal of the game, before a three-pointer from Connor Hudson gave the Warriors their first lead of the contest is at 7-4.

The Titans finally hit their first field goal late in the period on a three-point basket from junior Andrew Tatum. Following two made free throws from senior John Perry, Mercer County flipped the lead and were on top of the Warriors 9-7 after the first.

It didn't take long for the Warriors to tie the game up in the second after a basket from Hudson. A flurry of free throws from Mercer put them up by four before Hibbard cut into that lead with another field goal. A quick 6-0 spree by the Titans, with three different players scoring, forced head coach Jeron Dunbar to call for a timeout. Hibbard hit a three shortly before the break to give himself nine for the half, but a three from John Perry right before the buzzer gave Mercer County a 22-14 edge heading into the locker room.

Sophomore Jackson Doughty increase the Titans' advantage to double digits to start off the third period, with an answer quickly coming from Hudson. Two free throw from Wyatt Stevenson plus another field goal from Hudson trimmed their deficit down to just six points at 27-21.

Hunter Hamm became the fourth Warrior to score midway through the third. A 5-0 scoring spree by the Titans, with sophomore Kaleb Murray scoring three, brought Mercer County's lead back up to double digits. A made free throw from both Hudson and Hamm put the Warriors behind 34-25 heading into the final quarter.

Disaster struck for Southwestern to begin the fourth, as Mercer County began hitting their stride on the offensive end and scored 11 of the first 13 of the period to get out to a 45-27 lead. Ellis was dominating the inside during the quarter and scored eight of those first 13 points.

Sensing his high school career could be coming to a close, Hudson took the game into his own hands, as he scored 10 in the quarter including a rare four-point play after being fouled on a three-point attempt. It was all for naught however, as the Titans just had an answer for everything and were able to dribble out the clock in a 55-42 victory.

The Warriors were led by Hudson with 20 points. Other scorers included Hibbard with nine, Hamm with six, Hutchinson with four, Stevenson with two and Jarrett Simpson with one. Mercer County was led by John Perry with 17, as well as a double-double from Ellis with 16 points and 20 rebounds.

Southwestern's season ends with a record of 14-17. Best of luck to seniors Hunter Hamm, Collin Hibbard, Connor Hudson and Cameron Shipp in whatever they may do in their future.

Jacob Pratt is the Sports Editor of the Commonwealth Journal and can be reached at jpratt@somerset-kentucky.com.