FORTVILLE — The first half was pomp and circumstance. The second half was a pummeling.
New Palestine outscored host Mt. Vernon 44-20 in the second half Friday night to claim a 68-48 victory in the 76th edition of a rivalry that stretches back to the Kennedy administration.
Ryan Curry regained his shooting stroke to pour in 25 points for the Dragons (9-9, 3-3 Hoosier Heritage Conference), who overcame an inspired first-half performance by the heavy-hearted and hot-shooting Marauders (8-11, 2-3 HHC).
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for NP, which earned its second straight win over MV. In the teams’ last meeting on Feb. 15, 2013, the host Dragons edged their Hancock County neighbors 52-51, clinching their first HHC championship in 13 years and handing the 3A No. 1 Marauders what would be their only loss of the regular season.
Friday was not only Senior Night for Mt. Vernon, but most of the home fans traded in black and gold for purple to support cancer awareness. Many of those same fans — and perhaps even some New Palestine supporters — had their hearts melted a bit by the unique way the two teams began the game.
MV senior guard CJ Coleman, lost for the season on Feb. 8 thanks to a broken ankle, started the game despite sporting a hefty gray brace on his right foot. After the Marauders let Dragons’ forward Connor Roach have an uncontested layup to begin the game, MV senior guard Alec Lohman dribbled the ball the length of the court before handing off Coleman, who was planted under the basket. The future UNC Greensboro Spartan put in the layup, and with years in his eyes, exited to a raucous ovation, likely scoring the final points of his decorated career.
The Marauders channeled the emotion shown by their fallen leader into a motivated first half, sinking 6-of-12 3-pointers and riding a 14-3 run to close the second quarter into a 28-24 halftime advantage. The surge began with back-to-back triples by sophomore guard Miles Wayer and culminated with Lohman’s fall away 3 at the horn. Lohman sprinted back into the locker room after the shot went in, fist-pumping past a roaring student section. If momentum exists, the Marauders had a firm grasp of it at intermission.