INDIANAPOLIS — For all the excitement a week of build-up to an Indiana high school regional can bring, the finality it provides for three of the four teams can seem abrupt and painful.
For the Mt. Vernon Marauders, that finality came early as they lost the Saturday morning semifinal to Terre Haute South, 80-52 at Southport High School.
It was not the blowout, start to finish, the scoreline might suggest, however. Behind a large turnout of Marauder support on the eastside of the fieldhouse, Damari Gatewood (19 points, three rebounds) attacked the rim in the first quarter to announce his presence on the Marauders’ first possession of the game.
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Combined with the Braves starting 1-8 shooting from the field, the Marauders enjoyed an early lead throughout the first six minutes of the game. In the second quarter, the Marauders made four 3-point shots to keep within shooting distance of the Braves.
But after a 3-pointer by Cade Gentry (12 points, three rebounds) cut the Braves’ lead to five points midway through the second quarter, Terre Haute South got timely offensive rebounds to build up a 12-point halftime lead.
“We knew to have a chance to win, we’d have to make them do things they weren’t very good at,” Marauders coach Travis Daugherty said. “But really, there isn’t much they aren’t good at.”
Early on in the contest, it was apparent the Braves enjoyed a significant height advantage over the Marauders at every position, and the Braves used that advantage to gain and keep control of the game throughout. In fact, the Braves outrebounded the Marauders, 31-16. Especially in the second and third quarters, it seemed as if every time Mt. Vernon had earned a stop, the Braves were able to grab the offensive rebound for an easy put back.
In the third quarter, Terre Haute South senior and Indiana State recruit De’Avion Washington took over and put the game out of reach for Mt. Vernon. Washington, who scored 32 points in the game, scored 10 quick points in the quarter to push the Braves’ lead to 20 points.
From there on out, it was simply a matter of establishing the final score. Despite the Marauders attacking the rim to score points of their own, the Braves were able to use long possessions to wind down the clock and never face a serious comeback threat.
For the Marauders, the focus shifts to the future. With a solid core of juniors returning (Gentry, Keith Rupert, Peyton Meadors and Max Burhenn included), Daugherty hopes Saturday’s experience can be used to spark the program into greater heights.
“This group of guys have been amazing,” Daugherty said. “You can say we’ve overachieved this past month or so, but that just goes to credit how hard these guys have been working. I give so much credit to (Gatewood) and (Bostic) for leading the team here and getting their graduation year on the banner at the school, and hopefully, our younger guys can take everything they’ve experienced these last two weeks to fuel the ride back here in years to come.”
Terre Haute South lost the evening championship game to No.1 undefeated Warren Central, 83-48. Warren Central
defeated defending 4A champion Ben Davis, 48-46, in the other semifinal.
Mt. Vernon’s loss brings the team’s final record to 15-10, but program leaders say they’re also proud to have won their 13th sectional championship and first in Class 4A.
“I loved how our guys fought,” Daugherty said with emotion in his voice. “Our two seniors (Gatewood and Tyler Bostic) have worked so hard to get here, it was going to be tough for us whenever and wherever the season ended.”