Wednesday, December 11, 2019
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Mustangs climb to 4th place in Heart

Aaron Jennings extended his palms and told his guys to slow it down midway through the second half Wednesday night, but the Mount Mercy coach was not abandoning his high-powered offense in favor of a  methodical brand of basketball.

Mychael Brawner-Henley had just hit a 3-pointer for the Mustangs and  was making just about everything he launched, so Jennings wanted to  run a little offense and find another good shot for a hot shooter.

Sure enough, the Mustangs found Brawner-Henley in a good spot and he  drilled another 3-pointer to justify his coach's approach.

The moment was a snap-shot in another highly entertaining victory for  Mount Mercy, this time a 104-88 conquest of Missouri Valley in a Heart  of America Conference game at the Hennessey Recreation Center.

The Mustangs led by 30 points, 104-74, with 3:41 remaining, so it  hardly mattered that Missouri Valley scored the last 14 points of the  ballgame in mop-up time.

The victory lifted Mount Mercy (9-5) into a four-tie for fourth place  in the conference at 4-4.

The Mustangs tossed in 16 more 3-pointers, cementing their claim as  the top 3-point shooting team in the NAIA, and they collected assists  on 75 percent of their field goals with gorgeous passes and "we-first"  basketball.

Six Mustangs scored in double figures as they spread the wealth, with  27 assists on 36 baskets.

"That's just pretty basketball," said Jennings. "And it just makes me  happy, because it's what we work on and it's how we want to play. It  shows our unselfishness.

"That's what we do when we're good," he said. "And if we can keep on  doing that, we'll come in confident every game. It's exciting. And  it's fun to coach."

Mount Mercy poured in 63 points in the first half, but Missouri Valley  pumped in 54 points of their own to stay in the ballgame with only a  nine-point deficit.

The Mustangs owned a 10-point lead, 74-64, in the early stages of the  second half when their firepower, extra passes and balanced scoring  left Missouri Valley in the dust.

The Mustangs took off on a 30-10 surge that turned a fairly tight game  into a 30-point blowout. Mohammed Albagami, a key player off the bench  for Mount Mercy, ignited that surge.

"Mo came in and had six possessions that were just incredible," said Jennings.

Albagami tossed in a pair of 3-pointers and made two free throws for  an 81-65 lead. He then made an extra pass and found Brawner-Henley for  a 3-pointer to make it 85-67.

Mount Mercy point guard Antwain Strong took over with two free throws  and pretty passes to Dennis McKinney and Emilio Villagrana for a 94-67  bulge with about nine minutes left.

McKinney led the Mustangs with 24 points and six rebounds. Strong  collected 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Bailey Basala  scored 15 points. Brawner-Henley finished with 14 points and eight  rebounds. Villagrana and Albagami finished with 11 points.

Larry Plummer scored 23 points for Missouri Valley (5-9, 3-5).

Benedictine leads the Heart of America standings at 8-0, followed by  William Penn (7-1) and Peru State (6-2). Mount Mercy, Central  Methodist, Graceland and Clarke are tied for fourth place at 4-4.

William Penn is ranked No. 4 in the NAIA, Benedictine is 15th, Peru  State 17th and Graceland 25th.

Mount Mercy hosts Peru State Saturday at 4 p.m.

MISSOURI VALLEY (88): Cody-Jackson 1 3-4 5, Mackenzie 6 0-0 14,  Plummer 8 5-6 23, Schlotzhauer 3 2-2 9, Brazil 4 0-0 8, Cochran 4 3-5  14, Elbe 0 0-0 0, Collins 3 1-3 8, Williams 2 0-0 4, Mosby 1 1-2 3.  Totals 31 15-22 88.

MOUNT MERCY (104): McKinney 8 4-6 24, Evans 2 0-0 4, Basala 5 3-3 15,  Strong 5 6-6 16, Villagrana 4 0-0 11, Loggins 0 0-0 0, Doe 0 0-0 0,  Brawner-Henley 5 1-1 14, Hehmann 0 0-0 0, Albagami 3 2-2 11,  Reischauer 3 0-0 6, Johnson 1 0-0 3, Stoeffler 0 0-0 0, Kehinde 0 0-0  0. Totals 36 16-18 104.

Halftime - Mount Mercy 63, Missouri Valley 54. 3-point goals -  Missouri Valley 9 (Cochran 3, Mackenzie 2, Plummer 2, Schlotzhauer 1,  Collins 1), Mount Mercy 16 (McKinney 4, Villagrana 3, Brawner-Henley  3, Albagami 3, Basala 2, Johnson 1).


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