RUSHVILLE — Though they aren’t playing what they term “Mt. Vernon defense,” the Marauders are still winning games.
Down three points with under a minute remaining, 3A No. 2 MV rode the playmaking of Erica Moore and sunk six of seven three throws to escape Rushville with a 68-66 victory in both teams’ Hoosier Heritage Conference opener Friday.
The Lions nearly dealt the black-and-gold its first conference setback since Nov. 20, 2009, when Rushville felled host Mt. Vernon 45-36.
“I couldn’t be more proud of everyone’s effort and concentration down the stretch. I thought we played excellent in spots,” said coach Julie Shelton, in her 15th season at Mt. Vernon. “But we did not play defense like I expect a Mt. Vernon team to play defense.”
With 23.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter the Marauders trailed 63-60. Erica Moore rebounded Rachel Houck’s missed three, and scored while being fouled. Moore finished off the old-fashioned three-point play to tie the game.
Moore then stole the ball, and after a scrum under the MV basket, Houck emerged with the ball and was fouled.
Houck, enduring a rough shooting night, sunk both free throws to put Mt. Vernon up 65-63 with 12.3 seconds remaining.
After Rushville hit one of two free throws, sophomore Shaely Duff hit a pair from the line, and the visitors were up 67-64.
Sarah Cook trimmed MV’s lead to win with a pair of free throws.
With 3.7 seconds left, freshman guard Sydney Shelton hit one of two from the foul line for the Marauders. Mackenzie Campbell’s Hail Mary three caught nothing but air, and Mt. Vernon scraped out a victory.
MV arrived in Rushville shorthanded after losing starting sophomore guard Olivia Coleman to a torn ACL. Backup guard Maddie Walrod would leave in the second quarter with an apparent leg injury.
“We’re still trying to figure out our roles,” Houck said. “We haven’t gotten the hang of it yet.”
More than anything, the injuries have taken a toll on Mt. Vernon’s normally stellar defense.
The past three seasons, the Marauders have gone 62-11 while yielding an average of 37.3 points per night.
Through a trio of games, Julie Shelton’s crew is giving up 51 points per game, but MV (3-0, 1-0 HHC) remains unbeaten.
“A lot of that isn’t their fault at this point. That’s the only thing we need to fix because our heart is there,” Julie Shelton offered. “They’re giving it everything they have; it’s just a matter of playing through (being) tired and still guarding.”
Things didn’t look good for MV early.
Rushville (0-2, 0-1 HHC) claimed the first quarter 14-11, then Moore picked up her second foul with 7:14 left before the half. The junior center spent the rest of the stanza on the bench, but the Marauders managed to keep things close and were down 31-28 at intermission.
The Lions embarked on a 10-4 run to begin the third, and Mt. Vernon trailed 41-32.
MV adjusted and went to what coach Shelton termed a “two-man game” on offense, with Moore and Sydney Shelton isolated on one side of the floor.
The decision paid immediate dividends.
Shelton found Moore for an easy score. On the next possession, Shelton hit Moore again, this time plus the foul. Moore converted from the charity stripe.
After Moore picked up her third foul and departed with 1:59 left in the quarter, Shelton scored four of MV’s final six points to give her team the lead entering the final quarter.
“They got us going. That’s something we’ve never run,” Julie Shelton explained. “They did a good job of listening.”
Moore notched her first 20-point game of the season, finishing with 25 points (seven of eight from the line) and four rebounds. Sydney Shelton was in double figures for the third straight game, tallying 20 points (six of eight from the line) to go along with two assists and three rebounds.
Houck didn’t shoot well (one of 10 on field goals, zero of six from three), but hit seven of eight from the foul line.
As a team, Mt. Vernon hit 27 of 31 free throws.
“I couldn’t shoot at all from the field,” Houck said, “but if I could at least get my free throws in I could salvage something.”
The game was physical, as the teams combined for 43 fouls and 63 free-throw attempts. There were also two separate stoppages for blood on the court and a handful of injury timeouts.
Mt. Vernon has eight days to heal before its next contest at home against Hamilton Heights (2-1).
“It was a rough start, but we pulled through in the end,” Moore said. “We knew we had to pick it up and that we couldn’t lose this game.”
Notes: Campbell and Sarah Cook paced Rushville with 16 points apiece. … The Lions finished 19 of 32 from the foul line. … The 66 points allowed by Mt. Vernon were the most it surrendered since a 72-61 loss at Anderson on Dec. 6 of last year. … Rushville won the JV game 31-30, though MV rallied from a 28-17 fourth-quarter deficit to level the contest at 30. … Ariana Sandefur paced the Marauders with 15 points.