RICHMOND — If Mt. Vernon is to make a return trip to semistate in 2013-14, they’ll have to do it without four-year varsity cogs Anthony Burnett and Stephen Turner.
Burnett, the county’s leading distributor at 6.2 assists per game, also scored seven points per game and was a heady defender.
Turner was the team’s top rebounder (6.8 rpg) and second-leading scorer (14.3 ppg).
“The seniors were great,” junior guard CJ Coleman said following the Marauders 62-37 loss to Greensburg in the 3A semistate at Richmond Saturday. “If I had to lose with anybody, it would be this team right here.”
Coleman, who led the team in scoring (19.6 ppg), will return for the 2013-14 campaign, as will current sophomores Werner (7.6 ppg) and Zach Spears (5.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg).
Junior Alec Lohman and sophomore Christian Smith, the first two players off the bench this season for MV, are likely headed for increases in court time.
“I think we’re going to be tough again, same as this year,” offered Coleman, who is attracting significant interest from mid-major Division I programs. “Guys will step up and fill in, and we hope to make another run.”
That potential run will come against 4A competition next year.
The IHSAA recently announced classification changes for the next two school years, and Mt. Vernon was bumped from 3A to 4A, where it will be the sixth-smallest boys basketball school with an enrollment of 1,119 students.
Other MV sports bumped to 4A were baseball, girls basketball, softball and volleyball.
Werner expects to rack up the wins again next winter, but knows the challenge will be greater.
“We’ll go to the gym in the offseason, get better and hopefully we can have the same result next year, but it’s going to be a lot harder going up to 4A,” he explained. “It’s going to be a lot tougher.”
Unstoppable force prevails over immovable object
Greensburg’s high-octane, precision-passing offense that averaged 71.6 points per game heading into Saturday’s semistate deconstructed Mt. Vernon’s previously impregnable defense to the tune of 62 points, nearly 22 more than MV’s 3A-best per-game average (40.6).
The Pirates’ plundering of the Marauders’ 1-3-1 and 2-3 zones was noteworthy for three reasons:
* MV allowed more than 52 points for the first time since a 59-52 loss to 4A Westfield on Feb. 21, 2012.
* The last time the Marauders surrendered at least 60 points was a 61-38 setback to visiting New Palestine on Feb. 17, 2012.
* Greensburg connected on nine 3-pointers, something that Pendleton Heights (nine on Dec. 7) and Greenfield-Central (13 on Jan. 4) accomplished earlier this season. Mt. Vernon won both of those contests by 12 and 13 points, respectively.
Pirate junior Bryant McIntosh, a 6-3 junior who is committed to Indiana State, said his team’s exhaustive preparation for MV’s defensive prowess paid off.
“They were much longer than what we expected, but we eventually got it down,” said McIntosh, who scored 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting. “We were able to shake them loose to give our shooters enough time and space to knock one down.”
Greensburg was able to pick apart the black and gold defense because of its crisp ball handling and, of course, shot-making — the easiest and most obvious way to crack a zone.
McIntosh (nine assists), and to a lesser extent fellow Pirate guards Collin Rigney (five assists) and Macy Holdsworth (one assist), were adept at firing the ball around the perimeter and quickly dumping it into the paint to bigs Sean Sellers (6-6) and Ryan Welage (6-8).
Part of what made Mt. Vernon’s zone so effective leading up to Saturday was the aggressive play of Anthony Burnett, CJ Coleman and Stephen Turner — three of Hancock County’s top four kleptos — who stepped in passing lanes for almost 11 steals per game.
Saturday, the Marauders managed five steals, but many of their attempts to pilfer the ball went unrealized, and Greensburg was more than willing to put MV a pass or two behind in its rotations and knock down an unguarded jumper.
Greensburg shot 24-of-41 (58.5 percent) for the game — assisting on 17 of those makes — and converted 9-of-19 from 3-point land.
“They are a great team. It just seemed like every shot they took was going in, especially the 3-pointers,” explained Mt. Vernon junior forward Dan Werner. “It was hard to guard them. All of their shots were wide-open and they had a bunch of good players who were awesome at creating.”
Burnett sits to start game
For disciplinary reasons, Burnett, a three-year starter, came off the bench in Saturday’s semistate battle.
He checked into the game with just over one minute left in the first quarter and played nearly all the rest of the way. Burnett, a guard, had 10 points and four assists.
Burnett, also a standout running back for the football team last fall, was suspended from school for three days and did not practice with the team Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
“I was happy to have him here,” MV coach Steve Lynch said. “He’s maximized his team’s success at Mt. Vernon in football and basketball. I’m awfully proud of him.
“This week just gives him and I an opportunity to spend some more time together and I look forward to working with him.”
Lynch said he would counsel Burnett, even though, with the season over, Burnett is no longer technically his player.
“I just love him to death, as I do all of our players,” he said. “And when you love them, you coach ’em and teach ’em and hope you do the best you can before you send them off. And that’s what we’re going to continue to do with him.”
Two newbies meet in 3A final
Before Saturday, neither No. 2 Greensburg (25-1) nor No. 7 Fort Wayne Concordia (23-4) had ever captured a semistate championship.
When the clock hits 6 p.m. Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Pirates and Cadets will be looking to add to their growing trophy cases.
Each school possesses a basketball-rich history.
Greensburg added its 38th sectional title and seventh regional crown en route to Indianapolis, while Concordia won its sixth sectional championship and third regional competition.
Both squads advanced to Indy with relative ease.
The Pirates, winners of 14 in a row, triumphed in their half-dozen postseason tilts by an average of 20.8 ppg.
As for the Cadets, their margin of victory in their six postseason games is nearly 16 ppg, with the only close contest being a five-point overtime victory over No. 3 Andrean at the Huntington North Semistate.
Concordia, whose girls program topped Mt. Vernon in the 2012 State Finals, is unbeaten against 3A schools this season, though Greensburg holds a 6.4-point edge in the Sagarin ratings.
Werner is skeptical of the Cadets’ chances.
“If (Greensburg) plays like they did today, there’s no way they can be beaten by any team in 3A, for sure,” he said.
McIntosh doesn’t intend to leave the 18,165-seat arena empty-handed.
“It’ll be a great experience. We’re just going to look to come out and win the game though, because that’s what you go there for,” he commented. “You go to Bankers Life to win it.”