INDIANAPOLIS — Adversity stared down the unbeaten Mt. Vernon Marauders on Friday night, but they refused to back down.
On the road for the first leg of a back-to-back weekend, Mt. Vernon charged out against Class 2A Covenant Christian (1-1) and built an early eight-point lead in the second quarter.
The Warriors, however, responded with a barrage of 3-pointers and never allowed the margin to exceed double figures as they claimed the lead 53-52 with 2:05 remaining.
The 4A Marauders, led by junior point guard Michael Ertel and junior forward James McCloud, showed their poise despite the momentum swing, sinking Covenant Christian late, 56-53, to keep their record a perfect 3-0.
“There was a lot of adversity tonight. That was the first time we faced adversity this year,” McCloud said afterwards. “We’ve talked about it. We didn’t expect it this game, but we held it together and put together a solid team effort to get it done.”
Ertel, who is averaging 24.5 points per game, led the Marauders with 20 points and six assists as Mt. Vernon ran out to a 13-7 advantage after the first quarter. Mt. Vernon’s lead swelled to 17-9, but the Warriors turned to their perimeter attack to cut into the deficit quickly.
Covenant Christian buried seven 3-pointers in the game, with four different players contributing in the long-range assault.
Consecutive Hananiah Davis’ treys to trim the lead 17-15 kicked off the comeback and it continued throughout.
“They made some huge shots to maintain that proximity. Every time they needed to make one they did,” Mt. Vernon head coach Travis Daugherty said. “Give credit to them for that. Time will tell if all those guys play at this level the entire year, but if they do, they’ll be a very good 2A team.”
Davis hit three daggers, while Aussie Wagner dropped two deep jumpers with his final hitting nothing but net with 2:03 left in the third quarter as the Warriors trailed 42-39.
Jordan Webb scored a team-high 16 points for Covenant Christian followed by 13 points from Kierson Watts. Davis finished with 11 points off the bench.
With no production from their reserves, the Marauders’ starting five banded together and shot 52 percent from the field in the first half, but struggled in the third quarter as their shooting dipped to 35 percent.
Up 44-43 entering the fourth quarter, junior big man Erick Shepherd went to work in the post to put the Marauders ahead 48-43 and a fade-away jumper by Ertel stretched the lead to 50-46.
Shepherd had 11 points and four rebounds. A six-point swing behind 3-pointers by Davis and Watts erased the cushion, though, as Davis converted a steal and a layup to give Covenant Christian its first lead 53-52.
McCloud, who had 11 points, three rebounds, two blocks and a steal. He put the margin back on the Marauders’ side with a pair of clutch free throws with 39 seconds remaining before Ertel stole the ball near the top of the key with 19 seconds left.
Drawing a foul, he put them both through.
“That was the big defensive stop that we needed,” McCloud said. “We wanted to stop them in transition because they destroyed us in transition those first three quarters and on the perimeter. We wanted to slow it down and make them play a half-court game.”
Michael Thompson’s team-high 10th rebound with less than a second left sealed the game as the Warriors were forced to foul down by three.