WESTFIELD — The Mt. Vernon players and coaches sensed something was off from the opening tip Tuesday night.
The Marauders’ play on the court only verified it.
Flat from the start, the Class 4A Marauders fell behind quickly to the host 4A Westfield Shamrocks on senior night and lost for the second time in three games 50-37.
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“It was game night tonight, with the uniforms on and keeping score, so there was really no excuse for us not to be ready to play. We just weren’t sharp from the beginning,” Mt. Vernon head coach Travis Daugherty said. “We were slow and soft defensively. We made bad decisions offensively early, and we didn’t talk.
“We didn’t play to the level in any area that we have the majority of the year.”
Prior to their trip to Hamilton County, the Marauders (17-4) had won nine of their past 10 games. Against Class 4A competition, coach Daugherty’s squad was a solid 9-3 on the season.
In search of momentum with a share of the Hoosier Heritage Conference title on the line this Friday at Yorktown, the Marauders left with more questions than answers.
“It was a cycle of bad basketball from the beginning to the end,” Daugherty said. “Our focus coming into tonight was not where it’s been. I don’t know if we needed humbled, but we certainly got it tonight.”
The Shamrocks (11-11), who started off the season 1-5, won their third game in a row and fourth in seven contests.
Surging after their 40-36 win against Class 4A Carmel on Jan. 9, the Shamrocks are finding a rhythm offensively, and their harmony was on display against the baffled Marauders.
Jonah Welch recorded five assists and finished with eights points while senior Robbie Lynch scored a game-high 11 points to go with six rebounds for Westfield.
Charlie Warner, who is averaging 16.4 points per game in his senior season, had nine with seven rebounds. Ian Kristensen, a junior, added another nine points.
Mt. Vernon’s Michael Ertel and James McCloud both scored a team-high 10 points, but the Shamrocks’ 14-7 lead in the first quarter proved too much to overcome.
“No one played well. I feel like we let them do whatever they wanted. We can’t expect to do that in sectional and win. We’ll lose in the first game easy,” said Ertel, who is averaging 16.6 points per game. “That’s not how we play. I know I didn’t play well on offense, but you can always play hard on defense.”
The Shamrocks shot 22 of 42 for 52 percent from the field while the Marauders were 30 percent (12 of 40) with 11 turnovers and minimal ball movement.
Westfield pushed their advantage to 10 points at halftime before the team turned it on in the second half.
The margin grew to 14 points in the fourth, and a 6-0 run by the Shamrocks supplied the largest lead of the night at 16 points as Mt. Vernon faced a 48-32 deficit.
“We have to learn from this, and play hard for the conference on Friday,” Ertel said. “We’re more talented than this game, and they’re going to bring it and play hard.
“We came in here expecting just to show up and win. We can’t do that. We took everything lightly, even warm ups. We can’t do that.”
Their final point total was their lowest of the year.
The 13-point loss was Mt. Vernon’s biggest this season. The Marauders fell to 4A Decatur Central 57-48 on Dec. 5, 4A New Castle 55-54 on Jan. 2, and No. 4 4A Lawrence Central 74-64 on Feb. 13.