CONNERSVILLE — At some point, Mt. Vernon’s sectional win streak was going to end. It sure concluded in heart-breaking fashion Saturday night.
Trailing by one with 7.4 seconds left, the Marauders missed two free throws and a close bank shot as time ran out. For the first time in four years, there will be no regional trip for MV.
Anderson rode the clutch shooting of Kez’Aniqu Gosha and untimely Mt. Vernon mishaps to a 43-41 victory in the Class 4A Sectional 9 championship Saturday evening at the Connersville Spartan Bowl.
In winning their 15th sectional title, the Indians (18-5) earned a regional semifinal date Saturday morning against No. 1 Lawrence North (23-1) at Decatur Central.
“It was a good battle. I thought defensively, both teams played pretty well,” MV coach Julie Shelton said. (Gosha) hit tons of big 3s, and in this gym and with that kind of pressure, you don’t expect a kid to be able to continue to do that. Our game plan was to let her shoot early, and then we didn’t do a very good job of finding her once we changed our plan. She hit some big shots.
“We had some runs, did some good things and both teams battled. It was a great game.”
The two teams met earlier in the season, with Anderson handling Mt. Vernon 72-60 on Dec. 10. The Marauders were without senior post Erica Moore, an Indiana All-Star and Purdue recruit. Also missing was sophomore forward Sadie Baugh, leaving MV without an interior presence. The result was 30 free throws and 54 percent shooting from Anderson.
With Moore and Baugh back, Saturday’s clash was a defensive struggle that came down to a few key plays, and no sequence was bigger than when the Marauders trailed 42-41 with 15.6 seconds left in the game.
After a timeout, the Marauders put the ball in the hands of sophomore point guard Sydney Shelton. Shelton produced her best dribble-drive of the night, knifing through a pair of defenders before dishing to Moore, who was fouled.
With 7.4 seconds left, Moore went to the line for two free throws. The first attempt rimmed out. The second clanged off the back iron, with the Lady Tribe snaring the rebound.
MV fouled quickly, then had to foul again to get into the single bonus. With 5.6 seconds on the game clock, Anderson senior point guard Samia Carter stepped to the line for a 1-and-1.
Carter swished the first, then missed the second. Moore corralled the rebound and fired a quick outlet to Shelton up the left flank. Shelton veered across the court and flipped up a bank shot from the right of the paint as time expired. The attempt was too strong, colliding with the rim and ricocheting away from the net.
After a brief postgame ceremony to crown the Lady Tribe, the Marauders retreated into the bowels of the Spartan Bowl, trying to cope with their first sectional setback since a 70-56 overtime loss to Hamilton Heights on Feb. 11, 2010.
Coach Shelton, her voice hoarse from shouting over the din of the raucous crowd, reflected on the differences between the teams’ two meetings.
“I thought we improved defensively containing (Carter),” said Shelton, whose team allowed 50 points or less for the fifth straight game after surrendering 50 or more points four times in its first six games of 2013-14. “We improved a lot. They had 72 points the first time we played them.”
Where Mt. Vernon failed to progress was in its ball handling. Anderson’s nine steals aided in 18 Marauder turnovers. The Lady Tribe changed up their pressure; sometimes they picked up full court, other times they waited to trap until MV crossed halfcourt. Most of MV’s turnovers were of the panicky variety, and on more than a few occasions Shelton could only put her hands on her head and sport a look of disbelief.
“Where we didn’t improve was our guard turnovers,” Shelton said, though she admitted the Lady Tribe’s defensive style is difficult to simulate in practice. “We had way too many guard turnovers and couldn’t handle them.”
Following back-to-back 3A state finals appearances in 2012 and 2013, including a state title last winter, the Marauders entered this season expecting to be carried by Shelton — who scored 29 points in last year’s state title game — and Moore — the 2012-13 Hancock County Player of the Year. On paper, the duo — combined with a slate of role players headlined by Ariana Sandefur (10.3 ppg) and Olivia Coleman (10.1 ppg) — would lead a well-balanced MV outfit its first 4A campaign.
But, Moore underwent knee surgery prior the season and was limited to six regular season games. And after the Marauders experienced a slew of injuries to their role players, Shelton was left to carry the brunt of the scoring burden most of the season.
Near the end of the year, the Marauders got healthy and Moore saw more and more minutes. The result was a five-game winning streak entering Saturday night.
“It was a struggle week to week knowing who would be here and who wouldn’t be here. We had a good season,” coach Shelton said. “I’m proud of the kids. They played hard and battled. We’ve had our ups and downs, but for the most part, we’ve worked pretty hard.”
Pushed to the brink in its quarterfinal game against Greenfield-Central and its semifinal tilt vs. Connersville, MV started fast against Anderson, scoring the game’s first 10 points. Moore, making her second start of the season, was dynamite during the spurt, scoring seven points and flashing her old moves — including going coast-to-coast for a layup and spin move off the post for an and-1.
The Lady Tribe missed their first nine shots, but recovered after the Marauders led 12-3 after a quarter. Near the end of the second frame, the game was tied, and Anderson eventually went into halftime ahead 17-16.
For the third straight contest, MV’s offense briefly went into the tank. After falling behind 20-7 against G-C and making 4-of-17 shots in the first half against Connersville, the Marauders managed four points on 1-of-11 shooting in the second quarter Saturday.
The Lady Tribe threatened to pull away in the second half, riding a pair of 3s by Gosha and the combination of Carter-to-Da’Sha Boyd to a 37-30 advantage early in the fourth.
But with MV trailing 37-30 with five and half minutes left in the game, Shelton and Moore wouldn’t let their squad go down without a fight, and combined to trim the margin to 37-36 midway through the fourth.
Shelton scored her last bucket with 2:25 left, sinking a fadeaway 3-pointer to give her 19 points and the Marauders their first lead of the fourth quarter at 39-37.
After Gosha buried her fourth 3-pointer of night with a little over two minutes on the game clock, Moore’s lay-in with 1:15 left reclaimed the lead for MV at 41-40.
Anderson took possession with the clock winding down, and play began to get frantic as the clock went under 30 seconds. The Marauders, much like the Lady Tribe on Moore’s layup, were inches away from steals on ill-advised passes, but Anderson’s Dabriona Williams ended up an easy two off a broken play, putting the Lady Tribe back in front with 23.3 seconds left, giving way to the game’s last sequence.
It was the final game for Moore and fellow seniors Morgan Stricker and Maddie Walrod, who were apart of 84 wins during their career. Moore had 15 points and seven rebounds in her high school finale.
“They’ve been a good senior class,” Shelton said. “Erica’s just been fantastic and she tried to give everything she had tonight. We came up short there at the end, but she really got us started on a great note and kept us alive and played hard. She dove for a lot of balls, got a lot of rebounds. I’m very proud of her effort in her last game, and she had a great career.”
The younger Shelton will be joined by Baugh, Sandefur, Coleman — who struggled with her shot Saturday but pulled down 11 rebounds — and Shaely Duff in forming MV’s 2014-15 core.
“We’ve got to work on our strength, ball handling and our role players being a factor,” coach Shelton said. “We have to be more of a team.”
Notes: Moore’s other start came against Fort Wayne Canterbury on Feb. 7 for Mt. Vernon’s Senior Night. … Shelton has scored 950 points in her career. … Gosha had 16 points for Anderson, which shot 16-of-56 (29 percent). Carter added nine assists. … Pike (18-8) and Mooresville (19-3) face off after Anderson-Lawrence Central Saturday at Decatur Central. The championship game is at 7 p.m.
4A Sectional 9 at Connersville
Anderson 43, Mt. Vernon 41
MV — Shelton 5-14 6-7 19, Coleman 1-12 1-2 3, Moore 7-8 1-4 15, Duff 1-1 0-0 2, Sandefur 0-5 0-0 0, Baugh 0-1 2-2 2, Walrod 0-0 0-0 0. Totals — 14-41 10-15 41.
AN — Carter 0-5 1-2 1, Boyd 4-15 1-1 11, Williams 4-18 1-2 10, Dickerson 0-4 0-0 0, Gosha 6-12 0-0 16, Goolsby 2-2 1-2 5. Totals — 16-56 4-7 43.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
MV (17-5) 12 4 12 13 — 41
AN (19-4) 3 14 16 10 — 43
Three-pt. field goals: MV 3-10 (Shelton 3-7, Sandefur 0-3), AN 7-20 (Carter 0-2, Boyd 2-9, Williams 1-3, Gosha 4-6).
Rebounds: MV 33 (Shelton 6, Coleman 11, Moore 7, Duff 2, Sandefur 3, Baugh 4), AN 26 (Carter 2, Boyd 3, Williams 7, Dickerson 6, Gosha 5, Goolsby 3. Assists: MV 3 (Coleman 2, Sandefur 1), AN 13 (Carter 9, Boyd 1, Williams 2, Dickerson 1). Steals: MV 5 (Shelton 1, Moore 4), AN 9 (Carter 2, Boyd 2, Williams 2, Dickerson 1, Gosha 2). Blocks: MV 1 (Shelton 1), AN 5 (Boyd 1, Williams 1, Dickerson 1, Gosha 2). Total fouls: MV 11, AN 15. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: MV 18, AN 12.
Decatur Central Regional
Lawrence North (23-1) vs. Anderson (19-4), 10 a.m.
Pike (18-8) vs. Mooresville (19-3), noon
Championship, 7 p.m.