ALL-AREA: Eagles' Mercer named girls' top hoops player
By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on April 19, 2014 11:30 PM
Rick Grantham's phone rang one afternoon.
Deziree Baker was on the other end. She asked Grantham if she, Lexi (Mercer) and Alicia (Burns) could meet with the first-year Rosewood head coach for a couple of preseason workouts.
Grantham readily agreed.
When the quartet met for their first workout, Grantham pulled Mercer aside.
"I told Lexi that you need to rebound the basketball more this year," Grantham recalled. "We're smaller and we're going to play some teams taller than us. She said 'OK' and that was it. It was the only time we ever talked about it."
No extra discussion was needed. Mercer heeded her coach's advice and the sophomore helped lead the Eagles on a journey they soon wouldn't forget.
Rosewood secured its first Carolina 1-A Conference regular-season championship since 2007, won 21 consecutive games and advanced to the eastern regional final for the first time since 1983. Mercer earned All-State Class 1-A recognition from the Associated Press and NCPreps.com.
For her efforts, Mercer repeats as the News-Argus All-Area women's basketball player-of-the-year. She's joined on the first team by Burns, Goldsboro sophomore Tyona Moses, Princeton senior Savanna Massengill, James Kenan's Dezarae Phillips and "sixth man" Zaria Atkins of Southern Wayne.
The All-Area second team consists of Krystal Yelverton (Rosewood), Naheria Hamilton (Eastern Wayne), Charley Cox (Princeton), Destini Covington (Goldsboro), Myleah Jones (C.B. Aycock) and "sixth man" Jasmine Covington (Eastern Wayne).
"Before, I really wasn't concerned with my rebounds (but) this year I wanted to get the rebound and push the ball upcourt, which was a really big thing for us because our team didn't have a lot of size," Mercer said. "We had to use the fundamentals of boxing out because we weren't as tall as some of the teams we played."
The Eagles, despite having no one taller than 5-foot-9 on the roster, averaged more than 30 rebounds per game as a team. Mercer more than tripled her rebound output -- 3.1 as a freshman to 10.1 this past winter. She also averaged an area-leading 25.5 points an outing.
Mercer surpassed the 1,000-point plateau for her career, matched her single-game career high (37 points) and logged 15 double-doubles. She modestly attributed her success to teammates who understood their particular role on the court.
Baker crashed the boards and converted garbage baskets. Hayley Mercer and Callie Thornton did the dirty work, diving on the floor for loose balls. Krystal Yelverton distributed the rock and Burns knocked down the shots when Mercer drew multiple defenders.
"There was no drama on this team," said Mercer, who scored 30-plus points on nine occasions. "Everything clicked so well. It was just a big family. The experience was unbelievable, one we'll never forget. We made history at Rosewood so we're going to remember this season forever."
And to think it all started with one phone call.
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