MANSFIELD — He’s known primarily as a spot-up shooter, but there’s more to Mansfield Senior’s Roger Merrell than meets the eye.
The Richland Bank Athlete of the Week, Merrell scored 16 points and grabbed four rebounds in a 50-40 Ohio Cardinal Conference win over Mount Vernon on Friday. The senior added 15 points and four boards in a 60-39 loss at Sandusky on Saturday.
Merrell’s versatility was on full display during the fourth quarter of Friday’s win over the Yellow Jackets. His offensive rebound and putback gave the Tygers a 41-40 lead with 5:34 remaining. His steal and runout layup on Mount Vernon’s next possession pushed the advantage to 43-40 as the Tygers (5-9, 4-5) closed the game on a 21-2 run.
“I just had to do what was best for the team,” Merrell said. “At that time, crashing the boards is what we needed because they had been (rebounding well). I felt that’s what I had to do to win the game.”
A 6-foot senior, Merrell is averaging a team-best 14.5 points a game. He’s connected on 31 of his 106 3-point attempts while averaging 3.9 rebounds a game.
“Roger is a good athlete. He adds so many other things to us and what we have to do,” Senior High coach Marquis Sykes said. “He can be a good defender when he’s locked in. He can cause havoc in the passing lanes and he can also get on the offensive and defensive boards.
“We need him to do a little bit of everything for us to be at our best.”
Merrell had his coming-out party at Madison last year. He scored 31 points in the 89-70 victory and finished the season averaging 5.6 points and 1.5 rebounds a game.
With the graduation of high-scoring Quan Hilory, Merrell’s role has expanded greatly. He’s asked to create his own shot now, a new responsibility he has embraced.
“I attack the basket more this year,” Merrell said after scoring 22 points in a 68-39 win at Madison in mid-January. “It’s something I’m comfortable doing.”
With a host of new starters and a lineup that looks nothing like Sykes envisioned before the start of the season — potential starters Angelo Grose and Anthony Hawkins both graduated early to begin their college football careers — Senior High is still figuring out their identity. Friday’s fourth quarter could go a long way in helping the Tygers determine who they are.
“When we play like that, we’re hard to stop,” Merrell said. “We just keep it going and going.”
“We very easily, at the end of that third quarter, said here we go again,” Sykes said. “But they didn’t. The guys stuck to the game plan, they executed the game plan, they stayed positive and they were able to pull out the win.”