GREENFIELD — By bringing the Hancock County Tournament trophy back to Fortville Saturday night, Mt. Vernon’s latest core of four took the first step toward creating its own legacy.
Three years after the senior quartet of DeArmond Davis, PJ Hubert, Jake Stafford and Daniel Turner paced the Marauders to a sectional title and a regional final berth, the black-and-gold’s latest fearsome foursome of Anthony Burnett, CJ Coleman, Stephen Turner and Dan Werner earned their first piece of hardware in their second season of playing together.
After keeping New Palestine to its lowest point total in nearly two years during Saturday morning’s semifinals, 3A No. 2 MV delivered another stifling defensive performance against Greenfield-Central in the championship game, holding to the Cougars seven made field goals in a 51-20 triumph.
“This is kind of the first one for them. It’s their own championship,” said seventh-year MV coach Steve Lynch of Burnett, Coleman, Turner and Werner. “I was happy for them to get something and add to the Mt. Vernon program.”
In the nightcap, Coleman, who matched a career-high with 26 points against NP, scored 14 points to lead all players. Turner added 12 points and five rebounds.
The Marauder defense smothered the Cougars, as G-C’s 20 points were its lowest total since recording 19 versus New Palestine on Dec. 9, 2011. MV limited the hosts to 7-of-31 shooting (22.6 percent).
Dating back to last season, Mt. Vernon (8-0) has kept eight straight opponents to 50 points or less, a streak kept alive with the Marauders’ 60-39 victory over the Dragons in Fortville.
MV’s zone defense, allowing 43.3 points per game entering Saturday, hounded the Dragons — averaging 67 points in their first eight games — into 12-of-40 shooting (30 percent). NP made just four of its 21 3-point attempts (19 percent) and finished with its lowest scoring output since G-C held the red-and-white to 35 points in a loss on Dec. 10, 2010.
“We played really well, defense is kind of our thing,” said Turner — who collected All-County honors along with Burnett and Coleman — of his team’s tournament performance.
The Marauders hit the offensive glass early and often against Greenfield-Central, jumping out to a 16-5 first-quarter lead thanks to six offensive boards and all five starters cracking the scoring column. MV won the game’s rebounding battle 24-9.
Play stalled in the second quarter, with the two teams combining for just seven points. Mt. Vernon led 20-8 at half, its lowest scoring output through two quarters since notching 17 points versus Pendleton Heights on Dec. 7.
“After (Saturday) morning’s game, I thought we played really hard and I wanted to make sure we were ready to go. We started the first quarter well up 16-5,” said Lynch, who garnered his fourth county crown, tying him with NP’s Adam Barton for the most since the county competition was restarted in 2002. “In the second quarter, we did not convert on opportunities offensively and honestly, (G-C) didn’t score, but we gave them a lot of good opportunities. It could have been closer than eight at half.
“They’re pretty good about understanding (though). They’re a smart group and they understood. They had great focus to come out in the third and took care of business.”
Lynch’s unit regained its offensive footing in the third quarter, scoring on five of its first six offensive possessions and stretching the margin to 37-13 after three frames.
Though they didn’t scorch the nets against the Cougars (48.7 percent shooting) quite like they did vs. the Dragons (60.5 percent), MV managed to do enough to stay unbeaten. Dating back to the 1993-94 campaign, no Marauder team has started 8-0.
“Coach has really prepared us and everyone has played really hard. We just know we have to keep going because we’re ranked,” said Turner, whose team will host G-C (1-7) Friday. “We’ve got a target on our backs and we just have to keep playing hard and not have any letdowns.”
Derek Conley had six points to lead Greenfield-Central (1-7), which topped Eastern Hancock 54-53 in overtime for its first victory of the season and to advance to its third county finals appearance in four years.
Conley and teammate Cole Oleksy, who registered 11 points in the win over EH, were selected to the All-County Team. Eastern Hancock’s Victor Vincz, as well as Brandon Jonas and Michael Morris of New Palestine, rounded out the All-County honorees.
Mt. Vernon, which qualified for it sixth title game in the past seven seasons, begins a stretch of four games in nine days on Friday. Following its tilt with G-C, MV faces Hamilton Heights (4-2) next Saturday, followed by Rushville (3-4) and Howe (5-3) — a common sectional opponent — on Jan. 11 and 12, respectively.
“We’re planning on doing the same things we do,” explained Coleman, who barely overtook Morris for the county scoring lead (19.13-19.1) with 40 points Saturday. “If we do what we do, we’ll get wins.”
In their final two seasons, Davis, Hubert, Stafford and Turner — each of whom is now playing collegiately — guided Mt. Vernon to a 39-7 record, two Hancock County Tournament championships and a pair of Hoosier Heritage Conference titles.
Burnett, Coleman, Turner and Werner have similar ambitions, even if their coach had a hard time envisioning an 8-0 beginning.
“I don’t know that you sit there and say I’d like to be this or this with the record, but I think you do look at it,” Lynch offered. “I didn’t know what we could do, but I knew we’d be battle-tested. It would give us a good evaluation of where we’re at and what kind of team we had.”
New Palestine 59, Eastern Hancock 34
In the consolation game, Michael Morris had 20 points and nine rebounds to pace New Palestine over Eastern Hancock at Greenfield-Central.
The Dragons sprinted to a 16-8 start and a 32-16 advantage at half.
Justin Ikerd (17 points, four steals) and Brandon Jonas (eight points, 10 rebounds) also contributed for NP (7-3).
EH fell to 2-6.