West Windsor, N.J. – Halfway through the second half of Monday night’s Region XIX Division II playoff game between Mercer and Burlington, few people in the MCCC gym thought the Vikings would come out the winners. But the doubters were proven wrong as Mercer found a way to not just make the game close, but to pull out an amazing and dramatic comeback win.
After a lackluster first half by both teams, during which Mercer's lead scorer, freshman Mustafa El-Amin, was held to only four points, the Barons came out fired up for the second half. With just seven minutes left, the Vikings found themselves behind by 19 points. Entering the post-season as the #2 seed with a 19-9 record, a loss in this quarterfinal contest would mean a crushing end to a strong season by the Vikings on the their home court.
With the season on the line, the Vikings finally found their game, scoring 21 unanswered points and taking the lead. El-Amin started the comeback with a three-point field goal, followed by 3 additional three-pointers, including one that soared into the basket from about well past the three-point line.
As the Vikings shots began to fall, their defense also picked up, forcing multiple turnovers by Burlington. With each additional Vikings basket, the quiet crowd began to get louder and louder. When MCCC freshman guard Larry Webster hit a three-point field goal to tie the game 46-46 with three minutes left, the Mercer fans were on their feet.
As the clock ticked down, Burlington had two free throws and the chance to take a two-point lead with 5.6 seconds left. Barons guard Tarik Jett hit the first free throw, but missed the second. MCCC sophomore Andre Wilburn grabbed the rebound and quickly connected with freshman guard Tyliek Kimbrough. Kimbrough, who had gone 0-6 in the game, found the net in his final possession, outrunning Burlington’s guards and scoring a lay-up for his first and most important basket of the night. The Vikings took the lead 48-47.
With 4.6 seconds left on the clock, Burlington had one last chance. The Barons attempted an unsuccessful three-pointer as the buzzer went off and Mercer's win was secure. Vikings players collapsed into a celebratory pile while fans stormed the court.
Observes MCCC Head Coach Howard Levy, the improbable happened at Mercer Monday night. "It was one of the most memorable games in recent Mercer basketball history. Our guys dug deep and never gave up."
With the win, Mercer advances to the Region XIX semifinals, to be hosted by Brookdale Community College. The Vikings will face Lackawanna on Thursday, Feb. 27 at 5:30 p.m. The Vikings split with the Falcons during the regular season, most recently losing 88-82 at Lackawanna on Jan. 31. Lackawanna is the #3 seed and advances to the semifinals with a 75-56 win over Del Tech Stanton.
Read more about the Vikings' big win in the Trenton Times story here.
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