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Patriots drop third straight

February 13, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - The schedule maker won't be getting many thank-you cards from the Thomas Johnson boys basketball team.

Playing their seventh game in two weeks and second in about 18 hours, the Patriots were stung with a third consecutive loss Saturday afternoon, falling to Mercersburg Academy, 65-50.

"I think we were hit by fatigue, but I give (Mercersburg) credit," said TJ coach Tim Abercrombie. "How much Friday night was a problem, I don't know. For sure, their size was a problem today."

Likely to drop from its No. 1 Herald-Mail poll position, Thomas Johnson - which lost to cross-town rival Frederick Friday night - gradually lost any legs it had left after building a 20-14 lead through one quarter.

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Meanwhile, Mercersburg (8-12) enjoyed a dose of home cooking, winning its third straight game. The Blue Storm played their fourth straight home game and only sixth of the year Saturday, but their rest could be counted in days, not hours. Mercersburg had not played since Wednesday.

"We knew we had an advantage with them, not only in size but them being tired," said junior Alex Tyler, a transfer from Clear Spring who paced the Blue Storm with 20 points. "We're going through a good stretch right now after the (10-game) losing streak."

Jair Brady was sharp at the outset, as were his teammates. Brady hit a pair of treys and the Patriots (16-4) hit 7 of 9 shots in the opening period.

However, as the game continued, TJ's shots were becoming shorter while Mercersburg was using its height advantage to full proportions.

Blue Storm guards Eric Rahauser, Colin Cubit and the tandem of Josh Davis and Andre Smith began to effectively find 6-foot-7 Tyler and 6-8 Eduardo Archibold-Brown in the low post. Brown set the pace with six rebounds and eight points as Mercersburg raced to a 34-29 lead.

Only five points from Matt Foley off the bench kept the Patriots in contention at the break after Brady misfired on four shots.

Mercersburg dominated the second half, with Tyler hitting 5 of 5 from the floor in the third period and the Blue Storm manhandling TJ on the boards, ending the game with a 38-9 cushion. The Patriots managed only two rebounds in the second half.

Mercersburg constantly clogged up the middle with Tyler and the rotating combination of Brown and 6-11 James Craft, forcing the Patriots to launch many of their shots from 3-point range. TJ went 8-for-16 fro long range, including four by Brady and three from reserve Deke Gaeng.

Even with his first quarter woes, Tyler finished 9 of 17 from the floor and pulled down eight rebounds. Archibold-Brown added 11 points and Smith had 10, including both of Mercersburg's treys. For the game, the Blue Storm hit 26 of 48 from the floor.

"I couldn't do anything that I did today without the play of the guards," Tyler said. "They recognized me and Brown on the inside."

Abercrombie must now right the ship as TJ closes the regular season with MVAL Chesapeake games against North Carroll and Linganore. The Patriots lead the conference by one game over Urbana.

"We need to play for confidence," Abercrombie said. "Our goal is still to win the conference. Right now, these losses hurt in the tournament so we might not be more than a fourth seed."

Brady, who scored 33 points in a 64-60 win over Mercersburg on Jan. 31, led the Patriots with 13 points and John Truxillo added 11.

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