The Stanberry Bulldogs won 19 games through the season on the strength of their defense. On Friday night, victory #20 came to the Bulldogs in the same fashion, with Stanberry holding down a potent North Mercer offense through four quarters and overtime and escaping Worth County High School with a 50-48 win, sending them to the Class 1 state playoffs on Tuesday night at Bearcat Arena in Maryville.
Stanberry led early, taking 10-7 leads (at the end of the first quarter) and a 21-15 lead into the half. Mercer was able to catch the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter, and it appeared that the Cardinals would get the victory late, but a left baseline jumper by Stanberry's Cole Gage tied the game with 10 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, sending the contest to an extra four minutes.
Mercer was held to only TWO made three-point baskets in the game (one from Caleb Wyatt and one from Colton Hartley), as the top-seeded Cardinals end their season at 23-4. Hartley led Mercer with 26 points while Wyatt added 15. Garrett Noe had seven points. They were the only Mercer boys to score in the game.
For Stanberry, Reid Osborn had 14 points, Cole Gate 13, and Nathan Luke 10. Especially difficult for Mercer to handle during the game was the defense presence of 6'6" junior center Ryan Jensen and 6'3" freshman Daniel Hailey, who blocked a number of Mercer shots and altered many more.
Stanberry, at 6 o'clock on Tuesday night, will play the Rock Port Blue Jays in the first round of the Class 1 playoffs in Maryville. Friday night's district final was heard live on KTTN FM 92.3 and www.kttn.com.