ELDON – Jake Merz scored his first points of the night on a rebound putback off of a missed free throw with 4.6 seconds left to secure a victory for Marquette over Smith-Cotton 51-49 Friday night in the semifinals of the 85th Eldon Boys Basketball tournament.
With the Mustangs leading 48-46, S-C fouled Marquette guard Nick Bulanda to send him to the free throw line for a one-and-one opportunity with 7.1 seconds to play. Bulanda missed the front end, but Merz slipped around the Tigers to secure the rebound and sink the shot as he was fouled. Merz completed the three-point play to give Marquette a 51-46 lead, and S-C’s Dante Scroggins drained a 3 with 0.3 seconds left for the final score.
The Tigers trailed 39-36 early in the fourth quarter when Scroggins woke up the crowd with a fast break dunk, then hit a deep three-pointer to give S-C the lead at 41-39 with 5:36 to play. The teams battled through the fourth quarter before Bulanda drove the lane for a reverse layup to give the Mustangs a 46-44 edge with 1:23 left. After a Scroggins miss, Marquette’s Andrew Branstetter sunk a pair of free throws to give the Mustangs a four-point advantage at 48-44. The Tigers’ Tanner Powell made a putback off a rebound to get S-C within two, 48-46, setting up Merz’s finisher.
Scroggins led all scorers with 27 points, draining four 3s in the first quarter. Kendall Weymuth had 12 rebounds for S-C, and Zion Buckner dished out five assists. Bulanda topped the Mustangs with 20 points.
S-C will play the loser of Friday’s late game between Lebanon and Christian for third place at 4 p.m. Saturday.