PENDLETON – A fourth-quarter rally was not enough for the Mt. Vernon boys basketball team against a superior Pendleton Heights team Friday in their first Hoosier Heritage Conference game.
The Arabians (2-3) used a slow-and-steady approach to defeat the Marauders (4-1) and give them their first loss.
The Marauders’ 27 points in the final eight minutes more than doubled any other quarter. They shot 50 percent in the fourth with Logan Smith going 7-for-8 from the free throw line, Cade Gentry knocking down a few key putbacks for six points and Brandon Bell making two ‘3’s for another six points. But the aggressive attack and forced turnovers could not make up for the slow start for Mt. Vernon.
“Early, they made it more difficult on us offensively,” Mt. Vernon head coach Travis Daugherty said. “We didn’t really do much that worked. Especially in the half court tonight.”
Story continues below gallery
A four-point lead for the Arabians in the first quarter shifted to a six-point lead at the half and a nine-point lead after the third. Smith, who led the night with 13 points, came out strong with six points in the first while the scoring was scattered in the second quarter. All nine players scored for the Marauders.
The Marauders just didn’t have quite as much fight as the past four wins. Each team made seven 3-pointers but Pendleton Heights hit just enough more shots to continue stretching the lead throughout the game.
“Once they got the lead, they’re really good at making you guard a lot,” Daugherty said. “We spent a lot of time on defense during the second half.”
After Mt. Vernon tied the game 20-20 a few minutes into the second quarter, they wouldn’t see another tie in the game. However, the Marauders made a break for it with two minutes left in the game.
“Our guys fought hard, I was proud of our resilience,” Daugherty said. “We just came up a play or two short.”
The Arabians held a steady double-digit lead in some of the third quarter and most of the fourth. They led 57-47 with two minutes to go. But Mt. Vernon wasn’t quite done. Their defensive press kicked it into high gear forcing two Pendleton Heights turnovers and Logan Smith drawing two fouls. His four free throws along with a Bell 3-pointer put the Marauders back into the game.
A 10-point deficit became a 3-point deficit, 57-54, with 1:26 left. But, similar to the rest of the game, Pendleton Heights made one too many shots and Mt. Vernon had one too many turnovers or missed shots. Arabian Ryan Noel made his free throws then Justin Shupe made his to bring the game to 61-54.
A Keith Rupert ‘3’ was the last sliver of hope until the Arabians galloped away with the win.
“We’ve played with a relentless effort all year and in the first half, we just didn’t quite have that edge,” Daugherty said. “We did find it, but we found it a little too late tonight.”
Three on each team ended in double digits. For Mt. Vernon, Smith had 13 points and went 8-for-10 from the line, Gatewood notched 12 and Bell scored 10.
Mt. Vernon moves to 4-1 and will face their second HHC team Dec. 15 at home against Shelbyville, who lost 75-58 to New Castle Friday.
“How we play is a reflection of how we practice and we really didn’t practice very well this week,” Daugherty said. “Hopefully our guys will understand the importance of our preparation and come back with a renewed focus next week.”