FORTVILLE — Michael Ertel let out an over-exaggerated sigh and smiled. Even he couldn’t believe he missed a shot — especially uncontested.
After failing to connect on the first of two technical foul shots on Friday against Greenfield-Central, Ertel grabbed his rebound — a rare miss early on — and chuckled with the official under the basket. The free throw seemed too easy for the 6-foot-1 point guard, who nailed five 3-pointers prior in just 14 minutes of action.
Ertel, a Louisiana-Monroe commit, finished with a team-high 20 points in a 69-42 win against the Cougars, including 16 in the first half on 5 of 8 shooting from deep. In the second half, Ertel wasn’t nearly as hot from the field — but he didn’t need to be. He knows how to pass, too.
Ertel added four assists in the win, which was the team’s fourth consecutive since a Dec. 10 loss to Castle at Southport. Ertel, who leads the county and Hoosier Heritage Conference in scoring, also grabbed five rebounds against Greenfield-Central.
“(Ertel’s) scoring makes it easier for all of us,” said senior forward James McCloud, who was one of the biggest benefactors of Ertel’s stellar play. “Him bringing the ball up the court and just being able to step up for a three or set someone else up with the drive just makes everyone around him better.
“We’ve been playing together since the fifth grade so our chemistry is there.”
Added Ertel: “A couple times (Friday), I would get it and they would be so focused on me that other people would be wide open.”
Greenfield-Central (5-6, 2-1 HHC) received a technical foul with just more than two minutes to play in the first half, which gave Mt. Vernon (6-4, 3-1 HHC) a commanding 40-14 lead after Ertel knocked down one of two attempts at the line. His miss at the stripe was just the fourth overall for the half. For the game, Ertel finished 7 of 16 from the field.
The Marauders, led by Ertel’s smooth, left-handed stroke, shot 8 of 13 from behind the arc in the first half.
The savvy floor general nailed three of his five bombs from deep in the first quarter as Mt. Vernon jumped out to a 19-9 lead. He was consistent throughout, scoring Mt. Vernon’s first and last points of the quarter, as well as a bucket midway through to give the team an 8-7 lead with 4:01 to play.
In the second frame, Ertel made two more threes for six points and missed just one shot. After missing all three of his attempts in the third quarter, Ertel scored four points to help Mt. Vernon seal the win. He exited the game with 2:25 left in the fourth quarter after a thunderous dunk from McCloud with the Marauders leading 66-41.
Defensively, Ertel was equally impressive on Friday. He held Greenfield-Central leading scorer Will O’Connor, a junior, to five points in the first half, including zero points in the second quarter. O’Connor scored seven points after halftime with the game all but over.
“We knew he (O’Connor) was their guy and was going to have to have a big night,” Ertel said. “I just wanted to chase him around and not let him catch it. He can really explode, and we didn’t want him to.”
On the season, Ertel is averaging 22 points, five rebounds and three assists. His point total, which is up six points from his junior campaign, ranks 24th in the state. The senior is also shooting 44 percent from the field and 89 percent from the foul line.
“I did a lot (in the offseason),” Ertel said, who added approximately 10 pounds of muscle to his frame. “I shot a bunch every day, nothing complicated, just a lot of reps. Coach has given me three green light to shoot it whenever I’m open, and my confidence is sky high.”