MERCER — The Mustangs were in a giving mood Monday.

The Mercer boys’ basketball team handed out over a dozen assists on 19 field goals in a 46-24 victory over Moniteau in the opening round of the annual Mercer Mustangs Christmas Tournament.

“That’s been our trademark the past couple of years,” Mustangs coach Joe Venasco said. “We share the ball ... sometimes a little too much. We’ll make the extra pass and that’s something we really like. That makes for nice basketball and keeps every kid moving and working hard offensively.

“Tonight was a nice testament to that. We had a lot of kids across the board with three, four, two assists. When we’re moving the basketball, finding our inside guys or reversing the ball, we’ve been pretty successful.”

With the Mustangs playing unselfishly, the county seaters hit almost 50% (19 for 40) from the field.

“We stress using the entire 54 feet across the floor,” Venasco said. “The more of that the defense has to defend the better it’s going to be for the offensive team. Today, we reversed the ball and were using both sides of the floor and were attacking when we had the chance. It was a nice mix for us.”

The Mustangs’ defense got into the act, too, limiting the Warriors to 25 percent shooting (10-of-39) and forcing 20 turnovers to advance to last night’s championship game against WPIAL power Ellwood City in a game played after the Allied News presstime.

Against Mercer’s 2-3 zone, Moniteau went 1-for-16 beyond the three-point line.

“(Moniteau) has some good shooters and I don’t think any of them got good looks in the first half,” Venasco said. “The second half when our lead was a little bigger, they were able to get some (open shots), but they were very limited.

“With Logan (Turton) being out, we’ve been hanging our hat on being a good defensive team and things of that nature. We like to pressure like we did tonight and when we’re doing that effectively, our best offense can be our defense. It’s worked out that way so far.”

Mercer opened the game with a 12-0 run, and held the Warriors scoreless for the first 9:36 until a Kyle Pry lay-up and after a Chason Delarosa-Ruggs bucket on Moniteau’s next possession.

Mercer then closed the first half with a 12-2 run to take a 24-6 lead into the half.After extending their lead to 38-13 after three quarters, the Mustangs activated the mercy rule on a Jake Mattocks lay-up midway through the fourth quarter.

“Offensively, we were a little out of sync (in the first quarter),” Venasco said. “Any time you can hold a team scoreless for a quarter, you’re doing an excellent job defensively. I told the kids they were very attentive to the details and didn’t let their shooters get free, because they have some good shooters on that team.”

Mattocks led Mercer with a 16-point, seven-rebound, two-assist, two-steal effort, while Woody Nickel (seven), Connor Grossman (seven), Dom Pugh (six) and Daemyn Mattocks (six) rounded out a balanced scorebook.

Pugh had a team-high three steals, while Julian Lawrence, Nickel and Daemyn Mattocks each forced a pair of turnovers.

“I absolutely love the fact that we’re 6-1,” Venasco said. “More importantly, we’re 6-1 without one of our better players and he’ll be back in a short amount of time. I’m happy because we’re improving in my eyes every time out. We’ve strung five wins together in a row and it’s nice to do it out of the gates. Our kids are gaining confidence, so we like where we’re trending. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”

NOTES: Ellwood City advanced to the title tilt with a 77-36 victory over Saegertown in Monday night’s first game. ... The win over the Warriors was the Mustangs’ fifth straight. ... For Moniteau, Aydan Jackson finished with five points. ... Mercer was whistled for 10 fouls to the Warriors’ nine. ... The Mustangs connected on 5-of-10 shots from the line and 3-of-12 from behind the three-point line. ... Moniteau made just 3 of 5 free throws.

MONITEAU 0 6 7 11 24

MERCER 12 12 14 8 46

MONITEAU — Delarosa-Rugg 2-0-0-5, Ealy 0-0-0-0, Martino 1-0-0-2, Jackson 2-1-3-5, Alfreno 0-0-0-0, L. Kelly 0-0-0-0, Dessicino 1-0-0-2, N. Kelly 0-0-0-0, Magerto 1-2-2-4, Jewart 0-0-0-0, Pry 2-0-0-4, Thomas 1-0-0-2; 3-POINT GOALS: Delarosa-Rugg; TOTALS: 10-3-5-24.

MERCER — Haine 2-0-1-4, Co. Grossman 2-2-2-7, Balaski 0-0-0-0, B. Palmer 0-0-0-0, Pugh 3-0-0-6, Nickel 3-0-0-7, J. Mattocks 7-2-5-16, Lawrence 0-0-0-0, Cunningham 0-0-0-0, Miller 0-0-0-0, D. Mattocks 2-1-2-6, Guiler 0-0-0-0, Ch. Grossman 0-0-0-0, D. Palmer 0-0-0-0; 3-POINT GOALS: Co. Grossman, Nickel, D. Mattocks; TOTALS: 19-5-10-46

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