‘Stangs surge past Merkel in second half to stay unbeaten

Getting to the free throw line helped Sweetwater remain unbeaten in early-season boys basketball play here Monday.Though outscored from the field, the Mustangs used a decisive edge at the charity stripe to record their third straight victory, 60-55, over Merkel.Sweetwater shot 39 free throws and made 20 of them, including 11-of-20 in the fourth quarter.Merkel — playing its season opener after ending its football season last week — shot a better per-centage than Sweetwater but attempted just 17 free throws, making 12.Sweetwater led 8-0 at the outset, but Merkel came back to take a 16-15 lead after one quarter and still held a two-point edge, 27-25, at halftime. But Sweetwater led 38-35 after three periods, and built its advantage to nine points on three occasions in the final stanza.“We got a little ragged at times, but the kids hung in there and kept their composure,” said head coach Al Hunt. “We played pretty well on de-fense the second half and found some offense.”Six-eight senior Paxton Kelley scored Sweetwa-ter’s first 12 points and finished with a game-high 26, and Taylor Jones had 16. Kelley hit three treys and Jones two. Also scor-ing were Gabriel Medellin with nine points, B.J. Walker with five and Dylon Adames and Ryan Mercer with two. Sweetwater hit six three-pointers, while Merkel had just one. The Mustangs will return to action Nov. 30 at Wall.The JV boys lost 47-35 to Merkel’s JV in their game, but the freshman boys won 56-45.Ryan Linebaugh had 18 points to lead the JV (2-1) while Nate Hardin and Willie Norman each scored six points, Brandon Howell three and Brandon Hopkins and Cole Maxwell one. The freshman boys (2-1) were led by Kaleb Hoover with 26 points. Marquees Jenkins had eight, Dylan Bennett seven, Deandre Gatson and Trae Taylor four, Mason Andrews, Jonathan Browning and James Wass two and Quentin Wetsel one.