CONNERSVILLE — The Mt. Vernon Marauders buried the past quickly in the first half, shell-shocking the Pendleton Heights Arabians to take a pair of 19-point leads.
But with so much familiarity between the Hoosier Heritage Conference foes, regulation wasn’t enough on Friday night.
Losing hold of their advantage as the Arabians charged back in the second half and pulled ahead in the fourth quarter 39-38, the Marauders stood their ground.
Sophie Williams, who grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds, scored her only point of the game in the final 16 seconds of regulation to force overtime, converting 1 of 2 free throws, and the Marauders won their Class 4A Sectional 9 semifinal 47-40 in overtime.
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“That was crazy. We started out so relaxed and everything that we practiced all week, we did, especially when they started out in man because we’ve got a lot of confidence against man,” Mt. Vernon head coach Julie Shelton said. “Then when they came out, we lost our aggressiveness. We held the ball too long and got back on our heels.”
After a steal and a missed layup attempt by Mt. Vernon’s Tessa Freeman at the buzzer, the Marauders regrouped and outscored the co-HHC champion Arabians 8-1 in the bonus period to advance into tonight’s sectional final against New Palestine at 7:30 p.m.
“They just kept trying to hang in there, so everybody had their good moments and their bad moments. Sophie had some huge rebounds and kept playing through, though nothing went her way the whole night,” Shelton said. “She just kept fighting.”
All of the Marauders did, collectively, especially in the first half as the team built a double-digit lead behind a 9-2 run and a key 12-0 run.
The lead swelled to 19 points at 30-11 with a put back shot by Abby Worley, who finished with nine points and five rebounds.
Lexi Shelton had eight points, while Mary Fleming added eight points and four rebounds. Freeman posted six points.
Sydnee Perry had a game-high 15 points, pushing the margin to 19 at 32-13 in the final minute of the first half.
Once the second half started, however, the teams’ roles reversed.
Pendleton Heights, which beat Mt. Vernon 51-39 during the regular season, opened with an 18-2 run to slice their deficit 34-27 entering the fourth quarter.
Aubree Dwiggins scored a team-high 10 points for the Arabians along with eight rebounds, but the comeback effort was widespread.
Meanwhile, Mt. Vernon’s offense fell silent for nearly nine minutes in the second half before the Marauders broke a 34-all tie with 5:14 remaining in regulation.
“I told them, ‘you’ve worked too hard. You had such a wonderful first half. You have to get past it. You have to get back to playing how we played.’ I thought in a few stretches late, we did that,” Shelton said.
A pair of free throws by Perry gave Mt. Vernon a 36-34 lead and a shot by Worley put them up 38-34. Leonie Wilson, who had seven points for Pendleton Heights, cut it to 38-37.
And a put back shot in the post by Dwiggins supplied the Arabians with their first lead 39-38.
Yet, once the team’s reach overtime, the Marauders’ defense awoke along with their offense as a runner by Freeman made the score 41-39.
A layup by Perry pushed it 43-40, and four clutch free throws by Freeman and Fleming sealed it.
“Towards the end of the game, and in overtime, we did a much better job of containing and trying to make them hit shots,” Shelton said. “Besides one eight-minute stretch they really did what we had planned.”