INDIANAPOLIS — The Mt. Vernon boys basketball team took on New Castle at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this weekend. It had been almost three years since the Marauders played at what was formerly known as Conseco Fieldhouse.
Mt. Vernon hopes to make its next trip to downtown Indianapolis in three months.
Led by CJ Coleman and their trademark stout defense, the Marauders beat 4A New Castle 48-39 Saturday in all-day basketball showcase. Twenty-four hours earlier, Mt. Vernon stifled another solid 4A squad, defeating Pendleton Heights 49-37 at MV.
“Very proud of our defense,” said MV coach Steve Lynch, whose club has held its opponents under 50 points in six straight games going back to last season. “In my opinion, these two programs that we played this weekend, night in and night out, battle you, fight you, they scheme against you.
“I’m just really proud of the way they came in over 64 minutes this weekend and fought and managed the games the way they did.”
In its outing previous to the Friday-Saturday tilts, Mt. Vernon beat 4A No. 7 Hamilton Southeastern 52-49 Nov. 30. The high-flying Royals entered that contest averaging 75.7 points and hadn’t been limited to less than 50 points in almost two years.
The Marauders’ dominant 4-0 start hasn’t gone unnoticed. They received two first-place votes in the Associated Press Class 3A media poll released Monday and rank third overall, trailing No. 1 Greensburg (5-0) and Andrean (4-0).
A legitimate case has been made that the Marauders could return to Bankers Life for the State Finals, March 23.
“We have great potential,” said Coleman, who registered a game-high 16 points against the Trojans Saturday. “Hopefully we make a deep run in the tournament. But, we’ll see when we get there.”
Coleman, a junior do-it-all guard and the team’s leading scorer at 17.3 points per game, was an eighth-grader the last time Mt. Vernon played on the Indiana Pacers’ home court. On Feb. 23, 2010, the Marauders beat Westfield 59-47 and, a few weeks later, won a sectional title and advanced to the regional championship, where they lost to Danville 47-43.
A host of talented seniors graduated from that 22-3 team and MV went 7-14 in 2010-11 and 13-8 last season.
Based on an unselfish attitude on offense and a passion for defense, the rebuild is complete.
Saturday, senior guard Anthony Burnett contributed 12 points and four rebounds and senior forward Stephen Turner added seven points and six rebounds. Against Pendleton Heights, Turner was in the zone, scoring 18 points, while sophomores Zach Spears (12 points) and Dan Werner (eight points) also chipped in.
“It’s really easy to share the ball on this team,” Coleman said. “Everybody’s going to get the hot hand at some point. You give it to them and let them go to work.”
Coleman was feeling it early Saturday, scoring five points in the first quarter to stake the Marauders to a 9-5 lead. The black-and-gold never trailed the rest of the way, although New Castle (3-2) got within 30-28 late in the third quarter. Coleman and Burnett, however, combined to outscore New Castle 9-3 during a five-minute span that left the Marauders with a 39-31 advantage with under four minutes remaining in the game, and the Trojans were out of contention.
New Castle tried to exploit its six-foot-6 center, Kyle Goolsby, and the senior big man was an effective 5-of-7 from the field for 11 points. But he took only three shots in the second half, all in the third quarter, as the Marauders made it difficult for the Trojans to get the ball in the post.
As a result, New Castle attempted 13 3-pointers in the second half, and finished 6-of-19 from long distance.
“Goolsby does a nice job of sealing and doing work before the ball’s rotated, and I thought our kids did a pretty good job continuing to adjust as the game went along of being ready as the ball got reversed,” Lynch said. “Fortunately for us, we were able to get in the passing lane a little bit and get some deflections.”
The Marauders (1-0 Hoosier Heritage Conference) will attempt to extend their season-opening win streak at 4A Shelbyville (1-2, 0-0 HHC) Friday and at 3A Mississinewa (1-3) — north on I-69, just south of Marion — Saturday before trying to dethrone two-time Hancock County Tourney champ New Palestine (4-1) in the county semifinals Dec. 27 at MV.
The Marauders won the county tourney in the 2009-10 season, the same season as their most recent conference and sectional championships.
“Every year you want to win a county, conference and vie for the sectional championship,” Lynch said. “I think those are things you start with and this group has high expectations. We want to win some games and obviously we have not done those things in the past (with this group), so those are on the table for us to do this year.”
To win a sectional title — and keep a possible state finals run alive — the Marauders, who will host Sectional 26, will likely have to get past 3A No. 5 Guerin (the defending sectional and state champs), No. 14 Brebeuf or Chatard.
“We keep an eye on all the sectional opponents,” Lynch said. “We have great sectional opponents. We already have people collecting film on us, and you have to do some due diligence with that.
“But I think taking care of ourselves is the most important thing. And then obviously you have to be prepared come March.”
Mt. Vernon 48, New Castle 39
MV — Smith 0-1 0-2 0, Coleman 5-10 6-7 16, Burnett 3-5 6-10 12, Lohman 2-2 0-0 5, Spears 2-3 0-1 4, Turner 1-3 5-6 7, Wayer 0-0 0-0 0, Werner 1-5 1-2 3, 3, Rice 0-0 0-0 0, Stricker 0-0 0-0 0, Deckard 0-0 0-0 0, Christenson 0-0 1-2 1. Totals — 14-29 19-30 48.
NC — Bennett 3-9 2-2 9, Ryan 5-17 0-0 13, Sorrell 0-1 0-0 0, Haler 2-4 0-0 6, Orr 0-2 0-0 0, Perdue 0-1 0-0 0, Goolsby 5-7 1-2 11, Conaster 0-0 0-0 0. Totals — 15-41 3-4 39.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
MV (4-0) 9 7 16 16 — 48
NC (3-2) 5 6 17 11 — 39
Three-pt. field goals: MV 1-6 (Smith 0-1, Coleman 0-1, Lohman 1-1, Turner 0-2, Werner 0-1), NC 6-19 (Bennett 1-6, Ryan 3-8, Haler 2-3, Orr 0-2).
Rebounds: MV 21 (Coleman 4, Burnett 4, Lohman 2, Spears 1, Turner 6, Wayer 1, Werner 2, Deckard 1), NC 19 (Bennett 4, Ryan 4, Haler 2, Goolsby 8, Conaster 1). Assists: MV 7 (Coleman 1, Burnett 2, Turner 4), NC 3 (Bennett 1, Orr 2). Steals: MV 8 (Coleman 3, Burnett 1, Lohman 1, Spears 1, Turner 1, Werner 1), NC 2 (Goolsby 1, Haler 1). Blocks: MV 2 (Turner 1, Spears 1), NC 1 (Goolsby 1). Total fouls: MV 13, NC 16. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: MV 8, NC 10.