INDIANAPOLIS — Two of last year’s Indiana girls basketball state finalist teams met Friday, with both teams missing key components of their former standout squads.
As Mt. Vernon visited North Central, however, the Marauders’ list of players M.I.A. was more costly.
The defending 4A state champ Panthers, even without 2012 Indiana All-Stars Rachael Gregory and Nariah Taylor, controlled Mt. Vernon for a 51-37 win.
Mt. Vernon graduated Indiana All-Star Jessica Brown from last year’s 3A runner-ups, along with other key pieces. But, this year’s group, when healthy, includes Division I prospect Erica Moore, athletic guard Olivia Coleman and a third starter in senior forward Krista Shockley.
None of those players, plus reserve Morgan Stricker, were available Friday due to injury. Then, starting forward Maddie Walrod landed hard on her neck in the first quarter against the Panthers (12-7) and didn’t return.
All the Marauders had left, as far as being a danger to put the ball in the hoop, was Sydney Shelton. And the freshman guard did her best to keep the 3A No. 6 Marauders (16-4) in the contest.
Shelton knocked down four 3-pointers in the first six minutes to stake MV to a 14-11 lead. North Central coach DeeAnn Ramey made a defensive adjustment, however, and the tide turned.
The Marauders made one field goal over the final 10 minutes, 27 seconds of the first half and trailed 32-17 at the break.
“They took Sydney away, and we don’t have anyone else that can score,” MV coach Julie Shelton said.
“Pretty obvious, I think.
“They’re athletic and we didn’t have anybody else that was aggressive enough or think they could score. Once Sydney hit all those, they put (Celeste Edwards) on her and doubled anytime she was going anywhere, so somebody else is going to have to step up, and obviously that didn’t happen.”
Shelton finished with 24 points; the Marauders’ other four starters combined for eight points on 3-of-14 shooting from the field. Freshman Sadie Baugh came off the bench to replace Walrod and finished as MV’s second-leading scorer with five points.
Walrod is day-to-day, coach Shelton said, while Moore (knee), Shockley (concussion) and Stricker (ankle) are probable for some point of the sectional, which will begin Tuesday for the Marauders when they face Howe (5-14) in the first round at Chatard. Coleman (knee) is out for the year.
Despite the offensive struggles Friday, a strong third-quarter defensive effort helped pull MV as close as 40-33 early in the fourth quarter.
Edwards, the Panthers’ University of Dayton-bound guard, had 15 points, but only two in the second half on 1-of-6 shooting.
In the third quarter, when Mt. Vernon mounted a 15-8 run, NC committed eight turnovers against a motivated Marauders defense.
“Probably the most disappointing thing to me wasn’t that we couldn’t find offense,” Julie Shelton said. “More disappointing was that when our offense wasn’t going, we quit defending in the second quarter and let them run off a bunch of points and gave up some easy baskets on dumb turnovers and stuff.
“And I though the third quarter, we handled the ball better and even though we still struggled to score at times, we didn’t let them get easy transition points because of turnovers, and then we did buckle down and play a lot better defensively coming out.”
Sydney Shelton knocked down 1-of-2 free throw attempts to open the fourth quarter and make it a 40-33 game with 6:53 to go. But the Panthers converted two straight three-point plays after getting fouled under the basket to build their advantage back to a healthy 46-33 with under six minutes to go.
Penny Ingram, an Earlham commit, added 11 points, seven rebounds and six steals for the Panthers, who forced 22 Mt. Vernon turnovers.
If it’s any consolation for the Marauders, they lost two straight games to end the regular season last year, including this matchup (42-38), then went on a six-game postseason winning streak, culminating with a trip to the state finals, where they lost to Fort Wayne Concordia 42-39.
“We’re not going to play any teams in 3A that are going to have the athletes that this team has,” Shelton said. “So, this is a great game for us to figure out who we are and try to guard them, going into the sectional.
“To me, we came back, fought in the third quarter and did some things. We knew it would be hard to score offensively, hopefully though that won’t be the case, at least early in the tournament.”
If Moore, the Marauders’ six-foot-1 junior center, and her 18.9 points per game would have been available Friday, MV might have headed into the sectional with a win. When Moore, who had surgery to repair a damaged meniscus Jan. 8, and Shelton (18.4 ppg) are back on the court together, the Marauders are confident they can take on most teams at the 3A level.
But another deep run into the state tourney will require some help for the tandem.
“We just have to have some kids get some more confidence in scoring,” coach Shelton said. “And right now we don’t have it. Hopefully next week, Shaely (Duff) and Rachel (Houck) will have more confidence in their outside shot.
“But, tonight the problem was, besides Sydney, we had nobody out there that has a lot of confidence in their offense, and when you have a great athlete guarding you and you don’t have a lot of confidence in your offense already, it just really makes it show.”
North Central will open Sectional 8 at tourney host and No. 10-ranked Westfield (18-2) Wednesday.
North Central 51, Mt. Vernon 37
MV — Shelton 8-22 3-4 24, Duff 0-5 2-2 2, Walrod 1-1 0-0 2, Houck 1-4 0-0 2, Balbach 1-4 0-0 2, Baugh 0-1 5-6 5, Sandefur 0-0 0-0 0. Totals — 11-37 10-12 37.
NC — Taylor 2-3 0-0 4, Falcon 0-0 0-0 0, Edwards 6-16 1-1 15, Rogers 1-5 0-0 2, Ewing 3-7 0-0 9, Owens 2-3 0-0 6, Green 0-1 0-0 0, Radford 2-3 0-0 4, Ingram 4-6 3-5 11. Totals — 20-44 4-6 51.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
MV (16-4) 14 3 15 5 — 37
NC (12-7) 17 15 8 11 — 51
Three-pt. field goals: MV 5-14 (Shelton 5-10, Duff 0-2, Houck 0-1, Balbach 0-1), NC 7-21 (Edwards 2-10, Rogers 0-2, Ewing 3-6, Owens 2-3).
Rebounds: MV 22 (Shelton 2, Duff 4, Walrod 1, Houck 5, Balbach 4, Baugh 6), NC 23 (Taylor 1, Edwards 2, Rogers 5, Ewing 5, Owens 1, Radford 2, Ingram 7). Assists: MV 3 (Houck 3), NC 7 (Edwards 3, Ewing 1, Radford 1, Ingram 2). Steals: MV 9 (Shelton 3, Duff 1, Houck 3, Balbach 1, Baugh 1), NC 11 (Edwards 2, Rogers 1, Ewing 1, Owens 1, Ingram 6). Blocks: MV 1 (Shelton 1), NC 0. Total fouls: MV 9, NC 12. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: MV 22, NC 18.
North Central 39, Mt. Vernon 14
MV — Jones 6, Riggs 5, McClure 2, Sandefur 1.