CONNERSVILLE — Stepping out of a post-game locker room session that lasted nearly 30 minutes, a season’s worth of emotions was etched on Travis Daugherty’s face.
The latest one Friday night? Profound disappointment.
Asked what troubled him most about Mt. Vernon’s 49-37 defeat at Connersville, the first-year Marauder coach paused for exactly 23 seconds — a fitting number, given MV scored just 23 points through the first three quarters — before delivering a measured response while speaking barely above a whisper.
“We just didn’t … in 4A basketball, especially making that jump … regardless of who we’ve played this year, we just have to be willing to get in the fight and stay in it. We still, at times, are a little selective about our willingness to fight,” said Daugherty, whose team is playing in Class 4A for the first time.
The sport of boxing is a popular crossover analogy for team sports. Friday night, the “fight” wouldn’t have been called by the refs — the Marauders (6-8) just may have cried “No mas” on their own.
“I thought we battled for most of the first half,” Daugherty said. “They made a couple shots to start the third and it was like we kind of removed ourselves from the fight. They just let it go crazy and…I was proud of the guys that subbed in and made a little run and at least got it respectable. As a group, we’re still struggling.”
Ahead 19-17 at half, the host Spartans (8-5) went on a 19-0 run to begin the third frame, sinking 7-of-7 shots. MV was 0-of-6 from the field during the same stretch and failed to show the same spirit they exhibited through the first two quarters.
Eventually, Daugherty had seen enough and yanked four of his starters. Buoyed by the play of reserves — specifically Michael Ertel, Caleb Deckard, James McCloud and James Stricker — the Marauders went on an 8-0 run to get within 39-25 with just under seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.
But, MV couldn’t defend without fouling, and Connersville sank 4-of-6 free throws over the next two minutes to pull away and snap a six-game losing streak to the Marauders.
“You hope 14 games in that guys understand the competitiveness part of it, you know? But that’s part of where we are in the process is trying to figure those things out,” Daugherty said. “We’ve got to do the basketball part better, too. But we’ve got to be willing to continue to…want it.”
Dezmen Rent finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Spartans, tying season-highs in both categories as he outworked a black-and-gold unit playing without suspended freshman post Erick Shepherd (academics).
Tyler Billups made 5-of-10 3-pointers on his way to 17 points. Connersville shot 49 percent (17-of-35) from the floor; MV shot 14-of-38 (37 percent).
The game was a matchup between a pair of Sectional 9 foes who could possibly meet again early next month at New Castle. Instead, the story afterward was simply the latest chapter in what’s been a turbulent campaign for a Marauder outfit that’s undergone through three identity shifts through 14 games because of roster turmoil.
MV was without suspended guard CJ Coleman for the first five games of the season. After playing with a full roster for four games — including a strong third-place showing in a stacked Hall of Fame Classic field in late December — the Marauders fell to 1-2 without Shepherd, who will not return this season.
“Yeah, there have certainly been circumstances that aren’t ideal. We still have to control the controllables. We’re not controlling some of the controllables right now,” Daugherty said. “It’s been up and down and I think we’re still searching for the consistent identity. It’s been hard with the changes in our roster, but we’ve got to have that urgency to find it again and keep moving forward.”
MV (1-2 Hoosier Heritage Conference) and Daugherty don’t have much time to recover as Delta (7-6, 0-3 HHC) visits Fortville tonight. The game not only holds the significance of a pivotal conference game, but also because Daugherty will be coaching against his father, Stan, for the first time in his 10 years as a coach.
“It’ll be really fun. I think the coaching part of it, once the game starts you really don’t pay a lot of attention to what’s going on the other sideline,” said Daugherty, whose father is in his fourth season at Delta and 19th season overall. “I’ll love every minute of it beforehand, and I know we’ll both compete and try to kick each other’s butt during (the game) and love it afterwards. It’ll be fun.”
Notes: Coleman paced MV with 18 points, and has scored in double figures in all nine of his games. … MV is 2-2 against other Sectional 9 squads; Connersville improved to 2-2. … The Spartans host Batesville (9-3) in an Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference showdown Tuesday.
Connersville 49, Mt. Vernon 37
MV — Coleman 8-13 2-5 18, Werner 0-5 2-3 2, Lohman 0-5 0-0 0, Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, Wayer 2-5 1-1 6, McCloud 0-4 0-0 0, Stricker 2-3 0-0 4, Ertel 0-0 2-2 2, Deckard 2-3 0-0 5. Totals — 14-38 7-11 37.
CO — Rent 8-11 4-6 20, TJ Billups 1-2 0-0 2, Ty. Billups 5-10 2-2 17, Stine 0-1 0-0 0, Miller 3-8 0-0 9, Isaacs 0-2 0-2 0, Shelton 0-1 0-0 0, Graves 0-0 1-2 1. Totals — 17-35 7-12 49.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
MV (6-8) 8 9 6 14 — 37
CO (8-5) 7 12 19 11 — 49
Three-pt. field goals: MV 2-9 (Coleman 0-2, Werner 0-2, Lohman 0-2, Wayer 1-1, Deckard 1-2). CO 6-19 (Rent 0-1, TJ Billups 0-1, Ty. Billups 5-10, Stine 0-1, Miller 1-5, Isaacs 0-1).
Rebounds: MV 15 (Coleman 3, Werner 1, Lohman 1, Thompson 3, McCloud 2, Stricker 2, Ertel 3), CO 20 (Rent 10, TJ Billups 4, Ty. Billups 1, Miller 2, Isaacs 3). Assists: MV 3 (Lohman 2, Wayer 1), CO 7 (Rent 2, TJ Billups 1, Stine 5, Miller 1). Steals: MV 8 (Coleman 4, Lohman 1, Wayer 1, McCloud 1, Deckard 1), CO 4 (Rent 1, TJ Billups 1, Stine 1, Isaacs 1). Blocks: MV 1 (Thompson 1), CO 2 (Rent 1, Stine 1). Total fouls: MV 14, CO 10. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: MV 10, CO 11.
Connersville 29, Mt. Vernon 26
MV — Powell 5, Forsythe 6, Hays 11, Freeman 4