MERCER, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Moniteau boys basketball coach Mike Jewart looked down his bench.
There were a lot of faces missing.
Six Warriors missed the first game of the Mercer Tournament against the hosts on Tuesday night because of illness and injury, including two starters in David Dessicino and Andrew Zepeda.
Shorthanded, Moniteau still played well, leading 7-0 and 13-7 early, but Mercer’s frenetic pace, coupled with an outbreak of turnovers in the second half, doomed the Warriors to a 60-45 loss to the Mustangs.
“We fought hard,” Jewart said. “Being short two starters and six guys total, I’m happy with how we played. They guys we had here were busting their butts and they did a great job.”
Moniteau came out hot from the floor in building that seven-point lead. The Warriors were also able to break Mercer’s press.
But things began to unravel in the second quarter.
Trailing 20-15, the Mustangs closed the first half by outscoring Moniteau 16-5 to head into the locker room up 31-25.
The lead swelled to 10 four minutes into the third quarter.
Moniteau managed to trim it to 39-34 late in the period, but the Warriors never got closer.
Jake Mattocks had a big second half for Mercer. The big man scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the final 16 minutes.
“They did a great job in the second half of taking advantage of what we did to shut him down in the first half,” Jewart said. “We were fronting him a lot. We were having backside help a lot and they did a good job reversing that. They got the ball in the middle and we had some defensive breakdowns that left him open.”
Aidan Jackson led Moniteau with 14 points. David Martino added 13 and Connor Ealy nine for the Warriors, who had several players out of position.
Chason Delarosa-Rugg served as the point guard in Zepeda’s absence. He went scoreless, but he handled the ball well and played strong defense against Mercer’s other Mattocks, Dae, who was limited to 12 points.
“Chason had a heck of a game,” Jewart said. “Defensively, he played phenomenally. He’s one of my captains and he calls out most of my calls defensively. He did a great job.”
Moniteau got as close as 46-38 in the fourth quarter and had possession with the chance to cut even deeper into the deficit, but a turnover turned into a basket on the other end and the lead went back to 10.
Mercer was up by as many as 17 late.
“If I would have had my team, this would have been a fun matchup because we would have run right back with them,” Jewart said. “Our lack of people being able to come in when we got tired hurt us in the end. They had some fresh bodies and they were able to keep running guys in.”
Moniteau did get some valuable minutes off the bench from Landon Kelly — who has battled his own illness this season — Dawson Cook and Brendin Sankey.
Cook and Sankey were getting their first taste of competitive varsity action this season and acquitted themselves well.
Moniteau will play Saegertown at 4:15 p.m on Wednesday in the consolation game of the tournament. Mercer will take on Ellwood City in the championship game at 7:15 p.m.
Jewart said those six players will likely be out again on Wednesday.
“We competed,” Jewart said. “We hung in the game and that’s all you can ask.”