By Hayden Johnson
The Spartans notched a win at home over a tough, good shooting Merit Academy team Monday night, outlasting them 67-65. Gavin McDermott was huge for Emery, scoring 21 and pulling down 13 boards. Bailey Faimalo continued his consistent play with 14 points and nine assists.
Both teams hit the ground running, scoring six points a piece in the first minute. The competitive back and forth play in the first quarter set the pace for a very exciting game. Merit Academy knocked down five threes in the first quarter alone to take a 17-16 lead over the Spartans after the first.
The second quarter was much of the same. Emery would build a small lead just to have Merit Academy come right back with a couple three pointers. Tyson Roper had a strong performance of 11 points and five offensive rebounds off of the bench. “It was just a good, tough, physical game where everyone contributed and did a great job,” Roper said. “We had to make adjustments defensively for how well they were shooting the ball. It was good to see a team that gave us a different look and showed us some things we need to work on. Overall, it was an exciting win against a great team.”
Merit Academy would pull out with a couple of big shots by Hunter Davis who finished with 18 with five three pointers. Good defense and team basketball propelled Emery on a run that ended the third at 51-50.
In the fourth quarter, Emery once again was faced with crunch time. Many Emery games have come down to the wire in this early season and this one was no different. The Spartans secured a two-point lead with 8.6 seconds left thanks to some better free throw shooting than in previous games. Merit Academy got the ball and penetrated toward the rim. However, they ultimately missed the would-be game-tying floater that would have sent the game to overtime.
It was another good win and learning experience for the Spartans, who have now won three straight and are 3-0 at home this season. “On offense, we rebounded more aggressively and attacked the rim,” explained McDermott. “On defense, we stopped the drive but needed to stop the three ball better.”
Emery’s next test comes up at home against American Leadership Academy on Wednesday.