NEW PALESTINE — The Mt. Vernon Marauders needed a perfect game Tuesday night, and they delivered from the opening tip.
Charging out to an early 7-2 lead, the Marauders embraced their underdog role from start to finish and halted the New Palestine Dragons run at perfection, winning 60-47.
Sydnee Perry had a game-high 21 points and the Marauders converted 15 of 19 free throws down the stretch to improve to 5-7 on the season.
Their unexpected victory tightened the Hoosier Heritage Conference race with Mt. Vernon jumping to 2-1, while the host Dragons fell to 4-1.
“We’ve won four games. We’re not suppose to win games, and that’s what I told them before the game. They’re undefeated. All the pressure is on them,” Mt. Vernon head coach Julie Shelton said. “[We] had to have the will to win, and I thought that played well.”
The Marauders were coming off a 41-34 win this past Saturday at home against HHC foe Yorktown. Tuesday’s upset marked their second straight league win in four days and stopped the front-running Dragons, who were off to their best start to the season in program history.
Consistency paved the way for the Marauders, who fell behind 13-11 after the first quarter. Mt. Vernon charged back in the second frame with a 12-3 run and shot 8 of 18 at 44 percent in the first half to hold a 28-24 advantage at halftime.
The Marauders were 46 percent from the field the entire game, which gave them the lead for 17 minutes before New Palestine pulled ahead in the fourth quarter.
“That’s how it’s been all year. Our shooting is either terrible or really good. There’s been no in between,” Shelton said. “Our whole year has been about shooting. If we hit some shots and get some confidence, it’s a good game.”
Their defense played a key role against the up-tempo Dragons, who 14 turnovers, including six in the second quarter as they fell behind by as many as seven points.
“They were going back and forth in their matchup with a 1-2-2 and some man-to-man, and we had Megan [Jolly] in foul trouble,” New Palestine head coach Sarah Gizzi said. “I think we got out of sync.”
Jolly finished with 10 points. Leah Seib and Michaela Jones both had 10 points for the Dragons. Kate Herron added a game-high nine rebounds.
The Dragons shot 30 percent from the field, but they trailed 37-35 entering the fourth quarter and led 40-39 after an assist from Jolly to Jones for a 3-pointer dropped in with 4:58 remaining.
Jolly buried a pair of foul shots to give the Dragons a 42-39 lead, but Perry and Tessa Freeman took over to put the Marauders back on top.
Perry drove the lane through the Dragons’ defense for a pair of crucial layups, flipping the score 47-43. Freeman was a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line in the final 2:34 as the Dragons offense sputtered.
“[Perry] played some varsity as a freshman, but she’s just now stepping into a leadership role and realizing she’s got to be that kid for us,” Shelton said. “She’s getting better and better at it.”
Freeman ended the night with 12 points. Mary Fleming chipped in eight. Perry was 5 of 6 from the foul line. The Marauders were 20 of 24 from the charity stripe overall.
Mt. Vernon scored 23 points in the fourth quarter, which the Dragons couldn’t overcome, going 3 of 14 from the field and 12 of 16 from the foul line.
“We didn’t get the easy buckets that we do sometimes, and they really shut down the drive. We weren’t able to sneak in there and get the dribble penetration,” Gizzi said. “Mt. Vernon out played us tonight. We knew they were solid, and when they’re shooting well, they are really good. It was a good game, I just wish we played better.”