NEW CASTLE — The Mt. Vernon Marauders wanted to change their luck at the New Castle Chrysler Fieldhouse on Friday night, but the unbeaten Trojans weren’t in a holiday-giving mood.
New Castle star forward Mason Gillis posted a double-double with 24 points, 20 rebounds and five blocks and junior Luke Bumbalough added 22 points to power the Class 3A No. 5 Trojans to a 61-49 victory.
Mt. Vernon entered the evening’s Hoosier Heritage Conference matchup winless in its last two trips to the New Castle Fieldhouse. They lost to the Trojans in 2015-16 on a buzzer-beater and to Connersville 59-55 in double overtime last February during the sectional tournament.
“It’s a tough place to play. It’s always fun coming here, but it’s tough, and we haven’t come over here and played a bad team,” Mt. Vernon head coach Travis Daugherty remarked after his team dropped to 5-3 and 0-3 in the HCC. “The venue is what it is, but it’s typically the opponent that’s made it tough.”
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The latest edition of the Trojans were no different. New Castle grabbed an early seven-point lead in the first quarter and never relinquished, building an 18-point margin before the final horn.
New Castle used the free-throw line to their advantage throughout, converting 16 of 24 attempts to improve to 8-0 on the season and stay atop the HHC standings at 3-0.
“They’re hard to slow down. Just the balance they have between the post and the perimeter, they make it difficult,” Daugherty said. “Coming in we wanted to try to eliminate their other options because it’s really hard to stop Bumbalough and Gillis. So we wanted to take away Williamson and their secondary guys.”
The plan worked, but the Trojans didn’t need much other than Gillis’ and Bumbalough’s combined 46 points.
New Castle shot 41 percent from the field and controlled the defensive glass with the 6-foot-7 Gillis deterring penetration layups and multiple shots in the paint.
Forced to shoot from the perimeter, the Marauders were 8 of 26 from 3-point range in the game and struggled shooting in the first half at below 25 percent from the field.
“Overall, our defense play wasn’t bad. They made a lot of plays. The plays we needed to make and didn’t, some of those on the offensive end, put so much pressure on our defense,” Daugherty said.
Junior Keith Rupert led the Marauders with 18 points, shooting 7 of 11 from the field. He buried 4 of 6 jumpers from beyond the arc with 15 of his team-high points coming in the second half.
Senior Logan Smith finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Marauders. Cade Gentry added eight points, and Damari Gatewood had six.
The Marauders kept the game close through the first 17 minutes, trailing 23-18 after a Gatewood and-1 cut down the Trojans’ early double-digit lead.
A 12-0 run by New Castle in the third quarter, however, in addition to three scoreless minutes by the Marauders foreshadowed the inevitable.
“There was a lot we could have done better, but we really couldn’t stop Gillis,” Rupert said. “That’s something we need to work on for the future.”
Down 36-21 in the third quarter, back-to-back Rupert threes narrowed the margin to nine points, but Gillis and Bumbalough responded, pushing the lead back to 17 points. An and-1 by Bryce Huntley in the fourth gave the Trojans their largest lead at 54-36.
“We didn’t stop competing. I thought we played hard, but to win games like this, you have to play hard and you have to play good,” Daugherty said. “We have to continue to find ways to play better, and part of that responsibility is on me.
“Across the board, we have to keep pursuing growth and improvement and trust that if we do that every day, we have enough here to win games like this, but we have to play better.”
The Marauders are off until Dec. 30 when they compete in the Martinsville Holiday Tournament.