FORTVILLE — Although it wasn’t exactly picture perfect, veteran forward Michael Thompson stole the show on senior night Friday at Mt. Vernon, helping the Marauders fend off a furious second half comeback against county and conference rival New Palestine.
Thompson finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and three assists, including seven straight points in the crucial fourth quarter, as Mt. Vernon gets back in the win column after a loss last weekend to state-ranked Lawrence Central with a 53-45 win against the Dragons.
With the victory, the Marauders stay alive in the Hoosier Heritage Conference race at 5-1 with one game left on its HHC schedule, a road contest at Yorktown on Feb. 26. New Castle also has one loss in conference play.
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New Palestine senior forward Cody Long, playing in his third game back from an injury that cost him nine contests, reached double figures for the third time in a row with 17 points. Freshman Dylan Romine came off the bench and added 11 for the Dragons, including three 3-pointers.
“He has done a great job of scoring in the last three games,” New Palestine head coach Trent Whitaker said. “It’s what it could have been if he was with us the entire time. We need kids to attack the rim and not settle for the outside shot though.
“He (Romine) did a good job in a tough environment like that.”
After trailing by 12 points at halftime, New Palestine cut the lead to seven points after three periods thanks in large to a Jalen Qualkinbush three at the buzzer. With momentum on their side, the Dragons pulled the game within five, 40-35, after a John McKay basket with just over four minutes remaining in the game.
New Palestine had two chances to cut the game to one possession, but senior Duke Blackwell missed a 3-point attempt and Long was called for an offensive foul on the ensuing team possession.
With 2:35 remaining in the game, junior guard Michael Ertel found Thompson for an and-one and the athletic junior, who sent home a dunk in the third quarter, hit four free throws to keep the Dragons at a distance. For the game, Mt. Vernon finished 13 of 17 from the line including a 7-for-9 effort in the final frame.
New Palestine trailed 16-9 after the first quarter and 32-20 at halftime.
The Marauders, who were led in scoring by Erick Shepherd with 14 points, finished 18 of 40 (45 percent) overall from the field while New Palestine was 14-for-38 (37 percent).
Mt. Vernon outrebounded New Palestine 26-25.
Ertel finished with 11 points for the Marauders while Qualkinbush added six for the Dragons.
The Marauders return to action Feb. 23 at Westfield. New Palestine hosts Whiteland today for its Senior Night.
In the junior varsity contest, the Dragons won 44-26.