The Mervo boys basketball team saw an opening in Tuesday night’s Class 4A North Region I semifinal at Dulaney and crashed through it.
At times, the No. 9 Mustangs turned pressure defense into points. Other times, their size advantage made the difference.
Senior forward Will Thomas scored a team-high 18 points and two more reached double figures as Mervo rolled to a 78-44 win over the Lions, who were without All-Metro point guard Ryan Conway because of a bruised foot.
Mervo (16-5) will next travel to top-seeded Parkville — a 69-49 winner over Perry Hall — in the region title game Thursday. Dulaney, which got a game-high 20 points from forward Cam Byers, closed its season with a 16-6 mark. Demonee Carter added 13 points and Teon Rushing scored 12 for the winners.
“We just played team ball, our guards played well, and shout out to [Ryan] Conway — he’s a hell of a player and they missed him out there — but we just came out a good win," Thomas said.
Conway, who has been dealing with a bruised bone for the past two weeks, averaged 27 points and five assists for the Lions this season. Those numbers were missed, along with his leadership and ball-handling.
The Mustangs weren’t sympathetic, taking advantage with timely pressure defense.
A 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer gave the Mustangs a 13-10 lead and they never looked back.
Two spurts in the second quarter — the second a closing 9-0 run fueled by five straight points from Rushing — helped produce a 31-19 halftime lead.
The Mustangs asserted themselves inside to start the third quarter with center Elijah Rantin scoring their first eight points. They scored 12 straight at one point to pull away at 47-21.
“The effort was great tonight,” Mervo coach Deron Harding said. “We knew Ryan was going to be out, so we knew they were without their top ball-handler and we wanted to pressure them all night. The guys did a great job of sticking to the game plan.”
The Mustangs turn their attention to Parkville, which is led by senior point guard John Godinez.
“Another good Baltimore County team with some good players — a very, very good point guard,” Harding said. “I’m going to watch some film tonight, we’ll watch some film tomorrow to prepare for those guys. We know it’s going to be a dogfight and we’re looking forward to it."
Dulaney coach Matt Lochte noted his team’s 24 turnovers and poor shooting performance.
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“Mervo is too talented to make those mistakes and have a chance to win,” he said. “Ryan is a great player and we missed him, but you won’t hear any excuses from me. Mervo beat us and beat us good.”