FORTVILLE — With a win Wednesday night, Mt. Vernon stood to claim the top spot in the Class 3A girls basketball coaches poll next week.
However, it was Hamilton Heights that played like a No. 1 team and with it made the Marauders ordinary.
The 3A eighth-ranked Huskies slammed a usually stingy MV defense for 28 first-quarter points and went on to both a 23-point lead and 70-61 decision over the No. 2 Marauders.
MV (3-1) has struggled of late with guards Olivia Coleman and Maddie Walrod out with injuries. The Marauders’ last two wins, over Lawrence Central and Rushville, were by one and two points, respectively.
The Huskies (3-1) exposed MV’s backcourt woes and pressed right out of the gate. As a result of that as well as several unforced errors, the Marauders surrendered the ball eight times in the first quarter and four more the next.
“(Hamilton Heights) has a lot of quick guards and we did not handle the pressure very well early on,” MV coach Julie Shelton said. “But those things are going to happen and hopefully we can learn from our mistakes.”
And HH shot very well, making seven of its first eight attempts from three-point range and 65 percent overall through nine minutes, as it jumped ahead 33-13. The Huskies also caught the Marauders off guard a few times with pick-and-roll buckets.
HH didn’t allow MV to get within 15 until more than half of the fourth quarter had elapsed and led by as much as 53-30, three minutes into the second half.
The Marauders entered the fourth down 18, but they managed a 15-2 run and made it 64-59 with 1:10 to go, largely on the back of 6-foot-1 junior post Erica Moore and against the Huskies’ main seven-player rotation.
“The second half, we found shooters better and played better defense, and that’s what we’re going to have to focus on,” Shelton said. “We’re just giving up way too many points in the last two games to continue to win.”
Moore ended with a monster game, 22 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots, after being limited to two points in the first half.
Freshman guard Sydney Shelton contributed 18 points — 14 in the first half — and six steals. Shelton has scored in double figures all four games in her MV career.
Rachel Houck added 16 points, including four three-pointers.
The Marauders shot 42 percent from the field (23-for-55) but were 30 percent in three-pointers (6-for-20).
“I kind of expected some of the turnovers and the second half we did a little better,” coach Shelton said.
“You can live through offensive mistakes, but you can’t live through us standing there and letting them hitting threes and wide-open layups.”
MV fell one day after the current No. 1 team, Fort Wayne Concordia, lost to Norwell. Concordia beat the Marauders in last year’s state finals.
Notes: MV has allowed 70 or more points only four times in the past five-plus seasons. Three of those were in defeats to HH...MV won the JV game 31-27, behind junior Morgan Stricker’s 12 points...The Marauders’ next contest is Dec. 1, at Pendleton Heights (4-0).