CONNERSVILLE — For a third time in a row, the Mt. Vernon Marauders and the Connersville Spartans needed overtime to determine a victor.
For a third straight meeting, the Marauders came up short.
Up by two points with less than a minute remaining in regulation, the Marauders couldn’t find their finishing move, but Spartans’ senior Garrett Silcott had plenty.
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The 6-foot-1 guard buried a pair of clutch free throws with 52.9 seconds left to force overtime and converted two more in the game’s final minute to help Connersville win 42-37.
Silcott posted a game-high 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Mt. Vernon went scoreless in overtime after charging back from a 21-16 halftime deficit.
“It’s disappointing that we couldn’t finish it, but I’m hopeful that here through a couple of tough losses that we can stick together and keep fighting the fight,” Mt. Vernon head coach Travis Daugherty remarked after his team’s third straight loss. “I think there will be a reward for this group, if they can persist.”
The Marauders (7-7) were coming off a tough 59-55 overtime loss to Class 4A No. 7 Hamilton Southeastern at home Saturday. On Jan. 13, Mt. Vernon lost to 2A No. 9 Indianapolis Howe 85-78.
The team hasn’t won since Jan. 5, when they upended rival Greenfield-Central in four overtimes 96-91.
Last year, Mt. Vernon lost a four-overtime thriller to Connersville during the regular season. The Spartans beat the Marauders 59-55 in two overtimes during the sectional tournament last February. Mt. Vernon’s last win against Connersville was at the Spartans Bowl in 2015-16.
“What a test of their toughness and perseverance individually and as a group when you play over here. It demands your best,” Daugherty said.
In the opening quarter, the Spartans (13-4), who had lost two of their last three, appeared mortal, falling behind 14-6 as Logan Smith and Brandon Bell combined for 12 points on four 3-pointers.
The Marauders offense stalled in the second quarter, however, as Connersville went on a 15-2 run to go up by the half. Mt. Vernon went scoreless for more than seven minutes, posting just two points in the frame.
In the third, a 5-0 run by Mt. Vernon tied the game for the second time before Connersville strung together a 6-0 run to take a 27-21 lead.
“That game was played at a slower pace than we prefer to play, but in preparing, they’ve proven they’re so hard to speed up. If you try to speed them up, it gives Silcott more space and he’s going to pick you apart,” Daugherty said. “I really thought, if we just guard, even if it was slower, we’d put ourselves in position to win.”
Challenging the Spartans on defense, the Marauders found some room to run in the fourth quarter. Down 35-31 with 4:10 left in regulation, Damari Gatewood, who had a team-high 10 points and seven rebounds, converted an and-1 to slice the margin to one point.
A key assist from Smith to Peyton Meadors for a 3-pointer put Mt. Vernon up 37-35, for its first lead since the opening quarter.
The Marauders had two more possessions to build on their lead with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, but a pair of turnovers gave Connersville an opening.
Silcott tied the game with two free throws with under a minute. A missed 3-pointer by Mt. Vernon from Keith Rupert that just rolled off the rim kept the game locked at 37-all.
With only 3.6 seconds left for a desperation heave by Connersville, the teams headed to their seventh overtime period in three games as the ball bounced off the back board.
“Up two with the ball and a minute left in the game, that’s a spot I probably would have taken before the night started,” Daugherty said.
In overtime, the Spartans put the game away, outscoring the Marauders 5-0.
Smith had eight points and four rebounds to go with four assists. Bell finished with eight points. Noah Belt chipped in 12 points for the Spartans.
Class 4A Mt. Vernon returns to the court Thursday as they host 2A No. 4 Frankton.