FORTVILLE — After watching his team play passively for most of the first half, Mt. Vernon coach Travis Daugherty got a head start on his halftime comments when he took his senior leader CJ Coleman out of the game with less than a minute remaining.
As Coleman went to take his place on the bench, Daugherty stopped him by the shoulders and gave him the speech he was about to give the entire team.
“He got distracted late in the first half,” Daugherty said. “I challenged him to refocus and play the kind of basketball he is capable of.”
Coleman and his teammates responded, as he and junior Dan Werner combined for 33 of the team’s 45 second-half points on the way to a 69-61 win over Rushville Friday night.
“He played like the all-state caliber player he is in the second half,” Daugherty said of Coleman, who is committed to UNC-Greensboro. “He really led us.”
Coleman finished with 36 points with most of those points coming on dribble penetration to the basket for a contested layup or pull-up jumper.
Meanwhile, Werner had to flex his muscle with 6-foot-4 post Erick Shepherd sitting on the bench in street clothes because of academic reasons.
“Erick is out for the rest of the season, so that changes the identity of the team,” said Daugherty of the freshman who averaged 10.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in the first 11 games. “We lose his size and athleticism.
“But Dan played a tremendous game for us in the post.”
Werner scored 17 points, grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and forced Rushville into a number of fouls with his aggressive play in the paint.
Mt. Vernon’s 1-3-1 half court trap helped jumpstart its offense in the first quarter, forcing four turnovers in the first five minutes. Coleman scored the Marauders’ first eight points as Mt. Vernon took a 12-5 lead.
“We have been playing the 1-3-1 more,” Daugherty said “It give us a chance of be aggressive.”
With talented post player Cameron Cox on the bench with two fouls at the 3:24 mark of the first quarter, Rushville’s offense came alive from long range and also did a better job of holding onto the ball.
Rushville guard Bryce Dye hit all four three-pointers he took in the first half as the Lions took a 27-24 lead into the locker room.
“They moved the ball well and they made a lot of big shots,” Daugherty said. “We couldn’t run because we were always taking the ball out after their made basket.”
To start the second half, Coleman and Rushville’s Alex Yurack traded baskets until Mt. Vernon went on a 14-0 run capped by a four-point play from Miles Wayer.
“That’s what we want to be,” Daugherty said. “We want to win on defense and share the ball on offense.”
Leading 47-37 going into the fourth quarter, Rushville tried to trade 3-pointers for free throws and closed the gap to 59-54 with 2:03 remaining. But Werner made sure that was as close as the Lions would come with a three-point play moments later to help the Marauders even their record at 6-6.
MV will host Indianapolis Howe (6-5) tonight at 7:30 p.m. and have next week off before traveling to Connersville on Jan. 31.
Notes: The victory was the first at home for first-year Mt. Vernon coach Daugherty, who has had previous coaching stints at Tipton and Indianapolis Chatard. … Mt. Vernon defeated Rushville, 59-37, in last year’s game. The Marauders have won three straight matchups between the two schools and six of the past seven games. … Mt. Vernon is averaging 55 points and scored its second-most points of the season (season-high is 70 vs. Evansville Harrison). The Marauders scored more than 70 points twice during last season’s 24-2 march to the state semifinals.