FORTVILLE — The Mt. Vernon Marauders did their part Friday night.
Avenging the past while zeroing in on the immediate future, the Class 4A Marauders made a statement during the Sectional 9 semifinals as they shut down Richmond 56-20.
Now, the rematch is set.
Mt. Vernon vs. Greenfield-Central.
Right where the Marauders wanted to be.
“Coach (Steve Doud) kept telling us, we have to beat these teams first in order to get to the finals and maybe see Greenfield again,” Mt. Vernon senior Ariana Sandefur remarked after the Marauders won their third consecutive game.
“If we play like we did tonight, the energy was through the roof; I think it will be a totally different game.”
In their first meeting this season, the Marauders (17-8) were embarrassed by No. 10 Greenfield-Central (21-4) on the Cougars’ home floor 75-40.
Without seniors Sadie Baugh and Sydney Shelton two weeks ago, the Marauders fell behind 24-2 early and never recovered.
Against Richmond, they were a different team. They were decisive on offense, scrappy on defense and eager to earn a shot at redemption.
“In that game, we lost by 35,” Doud said. “But it doesn’t make any difference now. We’re there. We get that chance.”
Greenfield-Central beat Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Pendleton Heights 58-50 in the second semifinal game to advance into the sectional finals at Mt. Vernon at 7:30 tonight.
Prior to their victory, the Cougars watched attentively from the stands as Mt. Vernon ran out to a 33-9 halftime lead against the Red Devils.
Shelton scored a game-high 23 points with 15 falling through in the first quarter. In just her third game back after sitting out five straight, the point guard dished out four assists and was 9 of 13 from the field in three quarters of play.
In her initial return against Delta last week, she had 15 points. In the sectional opener against Connersville, she had 19.
After missing her first 3-pointer in the semifinals, Shelton settled in and drained six straight, including three treys in a row.
“I personally was pumped to play them again because all I could think about was last year,” said Shelton, referring to last season’s heartbreaking 69-63 loss to Richmond in the semifinals. “It was definitely a game we were anticipating. We were ready to make the most of the situation.”
The defense was more than opportunistic. It was stifling.
The Marauders’ starters held the Red Devils (8-14) to 15 points through 24 minutes, played a role in their 31 turnovers and limited their shooters to four field goals.
When the teams met during the regular Jan. 19, Sandefur’s first game back after an injury sidelined her for eight weeks, Mt. Vernon won 59-50.
“We knew coming into this game, we had to be extremely focused because it’s sectional,” Sandefur said. “They beat us last year, so this was definitely a rivalry match. I think we executed very well on the defensive end.”
Sandefur backed up her words with her effort, scoring seven points, tallying four assists and five steals. The IU Southeast recruit routinely forced the issue on defense, diving for loose balls and tying up for jump balls.
“Ariana played very well on both ends of the court,” Doud said. “That’s crucial. She scored a little bit, was active around the basket and had a defensive presence. She did a great job for us.”
Collectively, the Marauders’ starters shot at nearly 40 percent from the field and permitted four turnovers. All five starters recorded two assists or more each as Richmond’s leading scorer, Lexus Perkins could only muster six points.
The Marauders are seeking their first sectional title since 2013. Their finals appearance marks the third in the last four years.
“We made it to the sectional game my sophomore year at Connersville against Anderson, but we weren’t able to finish it,” Shelton said. “We’re just going to give it our all tomorrow and hopefully, that’s enough.”