For The Daily Reporter
FORTVILLE — With 1:30 left in the game, Mt. Vernon coach Travis Daugherty called out to his team with a simple message, “What do we need?”
That message changes from game to game, but this time it meant the Marauders needed to finish what they started, and they did by beating Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Shelbyville 71-60.
A combination of tenacious defense, strong shooting and a little bit of toughness was key for the Marauders (5-1, 2-0 HHC) in their win, but nothing was quite as important as those final few minutes.
“We’ve got to be a team that finishes games, and we’re good at that when we’re focused and committed to that endeavor,” Daugherty said. “We took a couple of sketchy shots when the best thing to do for our group was to keep moving (the ball), work the clock and get something easy.”
Thanks to some excellent 3-point shooting, the Golden Bears (3-3, 0-2 HHC) were able to hang around. They shot 9-for-16 from behind the arc, which made it difficult for the Marauders to really establish their will.
“Credit to Shelbyville though, they made a lot of shots to keep the game close,” Daugherty remarked. “Coming into the game, it was really about smart closeouts, high hands on every catch, and make every one of them as tough as it could be.”
The Marauders were able to overcome the deluge of 3-pointers thanks to their defensive intensity forcing a total of 18 turnovers. Mt. Vernon star Michael Ertel was instrumental for the Marauders on defense tallying four steals in just the first half alone. He also finished with 28 points to lead the Marauders in scoring.
“I think it’d be easy for him to become a scorer and let the other parts of his game diminish a little, but he hasn’t done that,” Daugherty explained. “He’s continues to play a complete game for us, and I think he’s a hard guy to game plan for because he’s capable of doing a lot.”
Perhaps the highlights of the night belong to Michael Thompson, who finished with 15 points, six boards and five assists.
Late in the third quarter, Thompson had a put-back dunk that electrified the Marauder faithful. But he wasn’t done there, just a minute into the fourth he slammed home a statement jam to help cripple any Shelbyville momentum and secure the win.
“When he plays with that energy level, he’s an elite talent,” Daugherty said. “His energy is infectious for us, his role for our team is so valuable, and he’s one of those guys that takes us to another level.”