FORTVILLE — Pendleton Heights wasn’t interested in running up and down the court with the Mt. Vernon boys basketball team Friday.
In a Hoosier Heritage Conference matchup, the defending HHC champions Arabians sought to make it a slow-it-down affair and, for much of the first half, they succeeded.
As soon as the Marauders adjusted to the pace, however, the host black-and-gold ran away with the game.
Mt. Vernon extended a 17-14 halftime lead with a 13-2 run to start the third quarter on the way to a 49-37 victory.
“We wanted to look more for good shots,” said senior forward Stephen Turner, who scored 11 of his game-high 18 points in the decisive third quarter. “And don’t try and rush things, because we know if we take a quick shot we have to go back on defense for another 30 seconds, which just makes things harder on ourselves. So, we knew if we could work the ball and get a more high quality shot, then we would probably be okay.”
With the stingy manner in which Class 3A No. 4 Mt. Vernon (3-0, 1-0 HHC) played defense, the four-minute third-quarter offensive outburst was all it needed to seize control.
The Arabians, who are adjusting to life without current Butler University starter Kellen Dunham, led Mt. Vernon 5-4 after the first quarter.
Lapel transfer Sean McDermott knocked down a 3-pointer for the Arabians with 28 seconds remaining in the first half to make it a 15-14 game in favor of the Marauders, and that would be the last points the Arabians scored until less than four minutes remained in the third quarter as the Marauders’ offense and defense worked in perfect harmony coming out of the halftime break.
“Patience,” MV coach Steve Lynch stressed to his team during intermission. “In a possession game like it was working into, our patience had to get better … patience on defense to sustain our defense, patience on offense to just let it happen.
“I felt like there were times we were inpatient in the first half and it didn’t end up hurting us too bad, but I just thought in the second half we were a lot more patient.”
Entering the contest, Pendleton Heights’ Brogan Gary (24 points per game) and Mt. Vernon’s CJ Coleman (23 ppg) ranked just behind New Palestine’s Michael Morris (25 ppg) as the conference’s leading scorers. But Friday’s battle came down to the supremacy of the Marauders’ well-rounded attack.
Turner opened the third quarter with a steal and assist to Zach Spears, who scored. On the Arabians’ next possession, Anthony Burnett came up with a takeaway, which led to a Turner bucket and free throw following a Pendleton Heights foul. Spears added another score to give the Marauders a 24-14 advantage and they were in control the rest of the way.
Spears finished with a career-high 12 points to go along with seven rebounds. Burnett contributed five assists, four rebounds and two steals. Dan Werner added eight points. And Coleman notched seven points, three steals and two rebounds.
“I’m pretty happy with the way we shared it,” Lynch said. “We shared it with the other team too much, but for the most part the guys are willing to share the ball, which is a nice thing.”
The Marauders committed 19 turnovers, one of their few blemishes. Turner finished with eight rebounds, part of MV’s 23-9 edge on the boards. And the home team made 70 percent (21-of-30) of its field goal attempts, with Turner, Werner and Lohman combining to hit all 12 of their attempts from the field.
“We were just finding the open guy and it just happened that I was open a couple times,” Turner said. “I think I got on a roll, started making a couple shots, getting a couple rebounds and just kind of got the whole team going.
“But really everybody stepped up and played well. Anthony had a lot of great passes, Dan drove the ball real well and Zak got some crucial baskets for us. CJ played really well.”
Gary, a senior and one of the few experienced Arabians returning from last year’s sectional championship squad, had 13 points Friday on 5-of-13 shooting. McDermott, a six-foot-2 sophomore, led PH with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting behind the arc.
The Arabians made 9-of-20 attempts from long distance, while the Marauders went 1-of-3.
Mt. Vernon will face another bomb squad today when it takes on New Castle (3-1) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 7 p.m. in part of an all-day basketball showcase.
“I think the systems are very similar,” Lynch said of the Arabians and Trojans. “They really want to shoot the perimeter shot, they’re very well coached, they have a great offensive scheme and they’re very physical and tough to play against. So, it will be a great challenge for our guys to come back and do it again (tonight).”
The action in downtown Indianapolis will begin with the Lapel girls vs. Ritter at 2 p.m., followed by Frankfort boys vs. Delphi (3:30 p.m.), Danville boys against Cascade (5:15 p.m.), MV-New Castle and the nightcap featuring the Greenwood girls against Columbus North, last year’s 4A state runner-up, at 8:30 p.m.
The Marauders haven’t played at Bankers Life since it was known as Conseco Fieldhouse. On Feb. 23, 2010, Mt. Vernon defeated Westfield 59-47 during what would become a 22-3, sectional-championship season.
Turner, then a freshman, said he played “maybe 30 seconds” in the game, while big brother Daniel Turner scored 14 points and PJ Hubert led the Marauders with 15 points.
Now, it will be up to the younger Turner and his teammates to continue what could be another special season.
“It will be a neat experience, definitely looking forward to it,” Turner said. “But I think we’re just going to treat it as just another basketball game for us, and we’re going to try and prepare as best we can.
“It’s going to be fun, but every game is important.”
Notes: Pendleton Heights won the JV game 40-21. James Stricker led the Marauders with six points. … Besides the turnovers, MV struggled at the free throw line, going 6-of-13. … New Castle defeated Mt. Vernon 64-49 last season at Chrysler Fieldhouse. The Trojans had Friday night off; they beat Muncie South 63-33 Wednesday in their last outing.