WHITELAND — The kids are all right.
With six of its eight players seeing significant varsity minutes for the first time, Mt. Vernon rode near-perfect free-throw shooting and its trademark vise-grip defense to a 52-46 road win over Whiteland in its season opener Tuesday night.
The Marauders went 23-of-26 from the foul line — including 11-of-12 in the final two minutes and two seconds of the fourth quarter — and limited the Warriors to 35 percent shooting to prevail in coach Travis Daugherty’s debut.
Playing without star senior guard CJ Coleman, who is suspended for the first five games of the season for a violation of school rules, MV started two freshmen (Michael Ertel, Erick Shepherd), two sophomores (Michael Thompson, Miles Wayer) and one junior (Dan Werner).
Juniors Alec Lohman and James Stricker and freshman James McCloud saw time off the bench. Only Lohman and Werner had played meaningful varsity minutes before Tuesday night.
The newcomers succumbed to nerves occasionally, but were mostly headstrong in their introduction to the varsity game.
“I think at times it was evident that it was their first varsity minutes. I think we made plays when we needed to make plays. We had guys step up and make big free throws to maintain a lead,” said Daugherty, who replaced seven-year Mt. Vernon coach Steve Lynch. “There were plenty of positives considering so many guys were playing in their first varsity game.
“Tonight also gives us a chance to really learn. When we look at the tape, I think we’ll see a lot of things that didn’t go how we would choose for them to go — but that’s going to be part of the process for this team, learning on the fly and sometimes messing things up. Hopefully we maintain the toughness it takes to win, especially on the road.”
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