FORTVILLE — Erick Shepherd set in the post, dribbled twice and turned in one smooth motion with a defender at his back. There was zero hesitation. The Mt. Vernon senior saw his target and buried it.
Converting his first two attempts from the field on Tuesday night as one of five players in double figures for the Marauders, the 6-foot-6 Shepherd eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau and pushed his team’s winning streak to four straight.
“I knew about it, but I was just focused on getting the win for the team,” Shepherd remarked on his proximity to the 1,000-point mark. “I didn’t even realize it until this year how close I was, so I made an effort to get it.”
At 996 points for his career at the opening tip against Westfield (6-16), Shepherd posted 14 points as the Marauders beat the visiting Shamrocks 70-53.
Story continues below gallery
All five starters for Mt. Vernon reach double digits with senior and fellow 1,000-plus career point scorer Michael Ertel putting up a team-high 17.
“When we’re at our best that’s how it looks,” Mt. Vernon head coach Travis Daugherty said. “Since the draw on Sunday, we’ve really been trying to steer ourselves towards preparation for next week.”
The Marauders drew No. 13 Connersville in the opening round of the New Castle Sectional next week Tuesday, and with each passing day, they are locking in on the future to avenge the past.
In their last meeting, Mt. Vernon (13-8) lost to Connersville in four overtimes 88-85 on Jan. 27. They are eager to correct that setback at sectional, and on Tuesday against Westfield, they fine-tuned their game, which is peaking at the right time.
“We feel like we’re ready for them. We’ve been talking a lot about sectional, trying to prepare ourselves,” Shepherd said. “As a team we feel like we could have another good game and should come out with a win this time and get it done in regulation.”
There was no need for bonus basketball versus the Shamrocks.
Mt. Vernon opened the night with an 8-2 run and after falling behind 17-10 late in the first quarter, they quickly corrected course.
A mid-range jumper by Ertel, followed by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Logan Smith, cut their deficit to 17-15 at the end of the first quarter.
From there, the Marauders surged with a 9-0 run in the second quarter to lead 30-23 by halftime.
Smith finished with 11 points, shooting 4 of 4 from the free-throw line, while senior James McCloud had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Damari Gatewood added 10 points.
“There were some things about tonight’s game we felt could help to prepare us for Connersville,” Daugherty said. “We need to finish the regular season the right way.”
With one game remaining against Hoosier Heritage Conference foe Yorktown on Friday for senior night, the Marauders wasted little court time against Westfield, shooting 46 percent in the first half.
In the second half, they put together an 18-point third and 22 points in the final eight minutes. An 8-0 run in the third quarter pushed their lead to 13 points.
Fittingly, Shepherd capped the night with a dunk in transition to push his career total to 1,010 points.
“It’s a great accomplishment, and it’s really a testament to his consistency over time. He’s been boringly good for so long. You almost take it for granted all that he brings to the table,” Daugherty said. “He’s been so important to our success the past few years. It’s a very deserving accomplishment for him.”