Strong third quarter lifts Mt. Vernon over Marion

MARION — Erick Shepherd saw a clear path to the basket and never hesitated. With a swift dribble around his defender, Shepherd soared toward the rim and slammed the ball through the net. For a 6-foot-6 high school forward, the Mt. Vernon senior can score in several ways.

The dunk was just one example on Thursday night as Shepherd also drilled a long 2-point jump shot in the third quarter, helping the Marauders earn an impressive 72-60 victory over Marion in the nightcap of the Marion Classic.

Leading by three at halftime, Mt. Vernon doubled up the Giants in the third quarter, 24-12, to secure its second consecutive win.

Shepherd, who made seven straight shots in the team’s last win over Shelbyville, scored 19 points through three quarters on Thursday en route to a team-high 21 points. He scored inside, outside and with authority, dunking home two points in the midst of third-quarter run.

Senior guard Michael Ertel, who is averaging 23 points per game, was cold in the first half but regrouped in the second to finish with 17 points and 14 rebounds. He nailed two threes in the third period to help Mt. Vernon run away with the game.

Led by head coach James Blackmon, who is the father of Indiana University guard James Blackmon Jr., Marion could not handle the Marauders’ aggressive style of play after halftime and finished 18 of 33 from the free throw line in the loss.

Cameron Black led the Giants with 16 points on Thursday.

According to John Harrell’s website, the two teams have not played one another in the last 23 years.

Junior guard Damari Gatewood stuck like glue to Marion’s leading scorer, senior guard Tim Leavell (team-high 23 points per game) in the first quarter, but the Giants held a 12-9 advantage. The Marauders finished the quarter just 2 of 17 from the field but picked up the slack in the second, outscoring the home team 19-13 before the break.

Behind three field goals from Shepherd, who lead the team with 13 points after two quarters, Mt. Vernon finished the second period 7-for-17 from the field.

Senior forward James McCloud was also effective in the quarter, scoring six points while grabbing several offensive rebounds. He finished with six rebounds in the first half and 13 in the game. He added 16 points for Mt. Vernon.

The Marauders, who led 28-25 at halftime, finished the first half 10 of 12 from the free throw line while the Giants were 7-for-13.

Leavell did not score in the first quarter but had eight points in the second, including two threes. He finished with 13 points in the game.

Mt. Vernon was 21 of 56 from the field for the game while Marion was 19-for-44.

Mt. Vernon returns to action in search of its third straight win on Dec. 30 at home against conference foe New Castle.

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Kris Mills is a sports reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 317-477-3230 or