RUSHVILLE — Mooresville would simply not go away. After building a nine point lead (43-34) to end the third quarter, Mt. Vernon fell asleep in the fourth and almost let a charging Pioneers squad sneak back and steal a win on Wednesday night for the Rushville Lions Classic title.
However, Marauders junior guard Michael Ertel had an answer to the lethargy.
Trailing 50-48 with 17 seconds left in the game, Ertel gave Mt. Vernon the final lead, 51-50, with a game-winning 3-pointer from the left side of the court. He finished with a team-high 23 points including eight in the pivotal final quarter.
“There are such a tough team and very well coached,” Mt. Vernon head coach Travis Daugherty said of Mooresville. “You knew they were going to make some plays. We didn’t handle the last few minutes perfectly, but most of the credit goes to them. I was proud of how we hung in there. We stepped up and made plays we needed to.
“Mike’s shot was the shot of the game, but if it wasn’t for a bunch of shots earlier in the game, from him and others, then that one probably doesn’t happen.”
Mt. Vernon used a sharp-shooting first quarter to build a 20-15 advantage led by senior guard Miles Wayer, who finished 4-for-4 in the quarter including three 3-point field goals for 11 points.
The Marauders hit 6 of 7 (86 percent) from deep early to put the pressure on the Pioneers from the start.
Wayer would finish with 14 points in the game and was key, along with Ertel, in both wins Wednesday.
“They are both winners,” Daugherty said of Ertel and Wayer. “They have been great leaders for us. Tonight was a night where we needed both of them to make a lot of shots.”
A strong second-quarter defensive effort, in which Mooresville was limited to just five points, was enough for the Marauders to build a 30-20 halftime lead. Pioneers guard K.C. Earls (26 points per game) was limited to just five points in the first half and finished with 16 in the game.
Mooresville cut Mt. Vernon’s lead to two points midway through the fourth quarter after a basket from 6-foot-5 senior center Luke Kenney and took its first lead since early in the first quarter with just under a minute to play after Landon Harder hit a deep ball from behind the arc.
After a mad scramble in the final minute, Ertel was able to set his feet and drain the most important shot of the day after a loose ball rebound. Mooresville had a decent look from the corner just seconds later, but the Marauders were able to corral the last rebound and head home with a new piece of hardware.
Harder finished with 15 points to pace the Pioneers.
Mt. Vernon shot 20-for-46 (44 percent) from the field while Mooresville was 18 of 33 (55 percent).
Rushville topped Franklin 63-56 in the consolation game after Mooresville beat the host Lions 78-41 in the first game of the tournament.
Mt. Vernon will travel to Hoosier Heritage Conference foe New Castle on Saturday followed by a Jan. 8 game against county and conference rival Greenfield-Central.
The Marauders are currently 2-0 in HHC play.
“These next couple conference games are going to be critical for us,” Daugherty said. “Hopefully this (win) can kind of catapult us into the second half of the season.”
After falling behind 12-4 early in the first quarter, Mt. Vernon regrouped in the first round of the Rushville tournament Wednesday afternoon and used a balanced scoring attack to outlast Franklin Community, 70-53.Senior forward Michael Thompson and junior big man Erick Shepherd led four Marauders in double figures with 14 points each. Ertel added 13 points while junior forward James McCloud finished with 11.“When we share the ball and trust each other, we are very difficult to guard,” head coach Travis Daugherty said.
Wayer added three 3-point field goals in the win, including two in the first quarter, and nearly reached double digits with nine points. His bomb from deep after a loose ball gave Mt. Vernon a 17-16 advantage, its first lead since 2-0, after one quarter of play. The Marauders closed the quarter on a 12-2 run.
Battling back and forth, Mt. Vernon took a slight 32-29 lead into the break and extended it to 48-39 entering the fourth quarter. The Marauders hit 7 of 11 shots in the final stanza to seal the win.
Shepherd also finished with a team-high 10 rebounds, while Ertel and McCloud each grabbed five.