The Mt. Vernon girls basketball team turned back Franklin Thursday, and the 3A No. 7-ranked Marauders will enter the Hancock County Tourney with an impressive 8-2 record — the same mark they held last year prior to winning their second straight county crown.
In the final two quarters Thursday, MV broke open what had been a close contest to cruise to a 69-37 win.
Franklin trailed by as many as eight points in the first half but went into halftime down only 25-21. That was despite hitting 47 percent of their shots, compared to 34.5 percent by the Marauders.
Franklin also out-rebounded Mt. Vernon 16-12 in the first half. But Mt. Vernon’s pressure defense was the difference, contesting every Franklin pass and forcing 13 Grizzly Cubs turnovers.
That problem got worse in the second half.
Over the first three minutes of the third quarter, Franklin (5-6) turned the ball over five times and could not get off a shot attempt.
Franklin seemed to catch a break, though, when Mt. Vernon junior center Erica Moore picked up her third foul with 6:15 remaining in the quarter. The Cubs’ Kylie Whittington hit two free throws after the foul to cut the deficit to 30-23.
But with Moore on the bench, Mt. Vernon freshman Sydney Shelton took control. The five-goot-9 guard scored 12 points during the next six minutes to help to push the Marauders’ lead to 49-29.
“The second half was great,” MV coach Julie Shelton said. “We shared the ball and played the best defense we have played all season.”
Franklin never got comfortable on offense. The Cubs ended the night with 32 turnovers and only attempted 30 shots, hitting 13.
Whittington led the Cubs with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Moore had a game-high 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Shelton finished with 18 points. Rachel Houck added 16 for the Marauders, who knocked down 28 of 60 shots. They turned the ball over 15 times.
The Cubs will face another Hancock County foe Friday at 10:30 a.m. when they take on common 4A Sectional 13 opponent New Palestine (2-7) in the first round of the Franklin holiday tourney. Indian Creek and Rushville will meet in the other semifinal of the Franklin tourney Friday at noon, with the consolation and championship games Friday evening.
First, however, New Palestine must face Mt. Vernon Thursday at 10 a.m. in the semifinals of the Hancock County Tourney, at MV.
“We’re just excited to play,” Shelton said of the county tip-off. “We are taking four days off, and hopefully will come back and play as well as we did (against Franklin).”
Dustin Brann of the Franklin Daily Journal contributed to this report.