ROCK FALLS – It took quite a while, but the Newman boys basketball team put itself in a position to take mercy on Mercer County.
The Comets overcame a rough start before pulling away for a 75-55 victory against the Golden Eagles on Saturday in the Rock Falls Shootout. It was a similar effort to Friday night, when the Comets struggled against Prophetstown before rallying to win.
“What Coach [Ray] Sharp preached in the locker room was we’ve got to play better than we did [Friday] night,” junior guard Trevor Bolin said.
“I think we kind of overlooked Prophetstown,” Bolin continued. “Everybody was talking about [Saturday], playing Mercer County, because we beat them in football, and everybody was so excited about that.
“We overlooked Prophetstown, but today, we came together, bounced back, and got the win.”
Newman (14-0) led by just one point (25-24) after Mercer County’s C.J. Aldinger cashed in on a free throw with 3 minutes, 31 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
But it was all Comets the rest of the way.
They closed the half with a 12-0 run, then began the second half with a 12-4 surge, capped by a 3-point play from Nate Terveer. That 24-4 run was accomplished with the starting five on the floor, but that same unit was pulled early in the second quarter for an effort that coach Sharp described as lackadaisical.
“I got mad because we weren’t playing hard, so we subbed five for five,” Sharp said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to do that. They think they’ll get their minutes, but if you don’t play hard, you’ve got to come out.”
The Newman bench was able to show what it is capable of doing. It scored 34 points, with Bolin (10 points), Nolan McGinn (4 points, 6 rebounds) and Shayne Allen (6 points) leading the way.
“The deeper we get into our bench, that’s just a better team we’re going to have later,” Sharp said. “We talk about that in practice – getting after it in practice so we’re ready to go with those guys. We’re trying to work those five guys in there together, to see if we can get some team offense and team defense.”
Terveer paced a balanced attack with 13 points, A.J. Sharp had 10, and John Payan added nine.
For Mercer County (3-10), Tyson Nylin led the way with 21 points, while Brandon Butcher added nine points and nine rebounds. The Golden Eagles went with just six players for most of the game, and were eventually worn down by the Comets.
“They’re a physical basketball team, and right now, we’re not very physical,” Mercer County coach Brian Hutton said. “It was a situation where you can play with a physical team for a little while, but playing for 32 minutes is a whole different story.”
Rock Falls Shootout
Newman 75, Mercer County 55
Star of the game: Nate Terveer (N), 13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals
Key performers: Tyson Nylin (MC), 21 points; A.J. Sharp (N), 10 points
Up next: Morrison at Newman, 7:30 Tuesday