John Kerr dominates in Derry’s win over Mt. Pleasant

Friday, January 4, 2019 | 10:18 PM

Size and experience won out over size and inexperience Friday night at Derry, where the Trojans rode John Kerr’s near triple-double to a 60-45 victory over Mt. Pleasant in a WPIAL Section 1-4A boys basketball game.

“He’s a difference-maker, for sure,” Derry coach Tom Esposito said of Kerr, a 6-foot-5 senior who scored 21 points and added 10 rebounds and eight blocks.

There was little Mt. Pleasant would do to counter Kerr’s presence. Vikings coach Allan Bilinsky rotated 6-4 sophomore Jonas King and 6-5 freshman Luke Brandner in defense to no avail. The two combined to score 11 points.

Kerr was too big and experienced, scoring 13 first-half points, as Derry built an 11-point lead before settling for a 32-24 advantage at halftime.

“We’ve got the size,” Bilinsky said. “We’re just very inexperienced. But I’m content with what this team is doing day-in and day-out. The effort is there. If you look at our film from the first game to now, it’s like night and day. We’re putting it together.”

Tanner Nicely and Justin Huss also scored in double figures for Derry (7-3, 1-1) with 11 points each.

Nathan Kubasky led Mt. Pleasant (2-8, 0-2) with 11 points. Jacob Johnson scored 10 for the Vikings, who were within 10 in the third quarter but could get no closer.

“Mt. Pleasant came after us. They were aggressive from the start,” Esposito said. “We told our guys to be ready for that. When Derry and Mt. Pleasant play each other in any sport, there’s a rivalry there. It was a physical game, and I was concerned for much of the game, right up until those last 30 seconds (when the teams emptied their benches).”

It took more than three minutes before anyone would score, then Derry and Mt. Pleasant traded 3-pointers. They played to a 13-13 draw in the first quarter.

Derry went on an 11-0 run in the second quarter to seize control, leading 24-13, and only a buzzer-beating layup by Kerr near the end of half provided the Trojans with a 32-24 edge.

“That’s a momentum-builder there for us,” Esposito said.

Mt. Pleasant limited Kerr to two third-quarter points, but the Trojans still outscored the Vikings, 13-11, to carry a 45-35 lead into the fourth quarter.

A 6-0 run, capped by Kerr’s 3-point play that began with a dunk, propelled Derry to a 51-35 advantage, and the Trojans coasted the rest of the way.

“When we needed to, we cranked up our defense,” Esposito said. “I was particularly pleased with our pressure and how we created turnovers in the second half. We missed a ton of layups, though, and we’ve been shooting very poorly from the free-throw line. Tonight was no different.”

The Trojans were just 12 for 22 (54.5 percent) from the free-throw line. And they made just two 3-pointers, both by Aidan Bushey in the first quarter.

Dave Mackall is a freelance writer.

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