CONNERSVILLE — One of Mt. Vernon’s foremost defensive players, Olivia Coleman was desperately needed for her shooting Tuesday.
The junior guard/forward scored a game-high 21 points to lift the returning state champion Marauders to a 45-39 victory over Greenfield-Central in the 4A Sectional 9 quarterfinal.
Coleman supplied MV’s lone consistent offense, hitting the team’s only three field goals of the first 11 minutes of action as G-C surged ahead 20-7. After the Mt. Vernon (16-4) defense finally took hold, Coleman kept finding the bucket, including the go-ahead points to give MV a 39-38 lead it never relinquished with three minutes remaining.
The Marauders, a former 3A squad competing in 4A for the first time, survived to face Connersville (11-10) Friday in the first semifinal.
“She’s probably the kid who buys into the whole game the most,” MV coach Julie Shelton said of Coleman, who leads in MV in rebounds and steals and ranks second in assists. “Wants to rebound, wants to guard, wants to share the ball. Very unselfish.
“Games likes this, I’m like, ‘Hey kid, come on, we need some shots,’” Shelton added with a laugh. “Just a great, great kid.”
Even Coleman’s second-best game of the year — her season-high is 23 — almost wasn’t enough, as the Cougars threatened to repeat their 47-38 regular season victory over the team with which they shared a Hoosier Heritage Conference championship.
Regan Lewis, Madison Wise and Savannah Girolami had their way early with a lackluster Mt. Vernon defense, scoring all of the Cougars’ points as the blue-and-gold built a 13-point lead, capped by back-to-back scores from Girolami and Lewis that made it 20-7 with four minutes, 56 seconds to go in the first half.
Shelton, occasionally frustrated this season by her group’s defensive shyness, ordered a switch.
“We went to man for a little bit, then we played our matchup (zone) the whole second half,” Shelton said. “But it’s a matter of me trying to get their attention. I’ve said all along, this is an offensive minded group. They don’t want to guard. But unfortunately for them, we’ve got to guard.
“Second half, I just felt like we talked and focused on it a lot more.”
MV outscored the Cougars 15-5 to close the first half — capped by an Ariana Sandefur 3-pointer — and 13-7 in the third quarter to build a 35-32 advantage.
Wise notched four points during a 6-2 G-C mini-run to open the final quarter, which gave the Cougars their final lead at 38-37.
Coleman scored to make it 39-37 and, after a Mt. Vernon defensive stop, Coleman dished to Erica Moore under the basket for a 41-38 MV edge with 1:58 left.
Another scoreless G-C possession led to a forced foul on Sydney Shelton, who sank a pair of free throws that essentially sealed that contest with MV up 43-38 with 52 seconds remaining.
“Two really good teams,” G-C coach Doug Laker said. “We just made some turnovers and missed some free throws, and it’s just the little things like that.
“It’s two teams that played hard and wanted to win and it was a great battle. I’m happy with how hard our kids played. It’s awesome. Great kids.”
Neither team shot the ball well at the free throw line: Mt. Vernon went 6-of-14; G-C, 5-of-14. The Cougars were 3-of-6 in the fourth quarter.
From the field, in a reversal of the regular season matchup, MV was a decent 19-of-38 (50 percent) Tuesday after making only 14-of-62 (23 percent) attempts on Jan. 24 at G-C.
Coleman finished 10-of-12 from the field and added four rebounds. Moore had nine points and seven rebounds. Shelton had six points, five assists and four rebounds.
For the Cougars, Lewis had 16 points. Wise, a freshman, had 15 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and two steals. Girolami added eight points. No one else scored for G-C.
The Cougars finished 14-7 — a six-win improvement over 2012-13. Their entire five-guard starting lineup will return next season. In fact, they didn’t carry a single senior on the roster this year.
“We’ve got to learn from it,” Laker said. “Losing’s got to drive you. As a player, is it going to drive you this summer? Is it going to make you shoot extra shots? Going to make you lift? Or, are you just going to say, ‘Ah, it will come to me?’ That’s going to be their choice.”
Mt. Vernon will continue its quest for a fourth-straight sectional crown Friday against the host Spartans.
MV downed Connersville 48-33 in this same gym on Nov. 15.
“Another great team,” Shelton said of the Spartans, part of a sectional group that doesn’t include a team with a losing record. “There isn’t a team that isn’t very strong in this sectional.
“They’re very guard heavy. Some really good guards that can penetrate and hit 3s. We’re going to have to get out on shooters and contain the ball, which we struggled with the first half in this game, so we’ll keep working on that.”
Mt. Vernon 45, Greenfield-Central 39
MV — Shelton 2-11 2-2 6, Duff 0-2 2-4 2, Sandefur 1-1 0-0 3, Baugh 2-3 0-4 4, Walrod 0-1 0-0 0, Coleman 10-12 1-1 21, Moore 4-8 1-3 9. Totals — 19-38 6-14 45.
GC — Helgason 0-6 0-0 0, Wise 5-9 4-8 15, Oldham 0-6 0-0 0, Wolfe 0-0 0-0 0, Lewis 7-12 1-6 16, Bell 0-3 0-0 0, Conley 0-1 0-0 0, Girolami 4-11 0-0 8. Totals — 16-48 5-14 39.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
MV (16-4) 5 17 13 10 — 45
GC (14-7) 12 13 7 7 — 39
Three-pt. field goals: MV 1-7 (Shelton 0-4, Duff 0-1, Sandefur 1-1, Walrod 0-1). GC 2-16 (Helgason 0-4, Wise 1-2, Oldham 0-2, Lewis 1-3, Bell 0-3, Conley 0-1, Girolami 0-4).
Rebounds: MV 21 (Shelton 4, Duff 2, Sandefur 1, Baugh 2, Walrod 1, Coleman 4, Moore 7), GC 27 (Helgason 2, Wise 13, Oldham 3, Wolfe 1, Lewis 2, Girolami 6). Assists: MV 9 (Shelton 5, Duff 1, Baugh 1, Coleman 1, Moore 1), GC 11 (Helgason 3, Wise 3, Oldham 3, Bell 1, Girolami 1). Steals: MV 5 (Shelton 1, Duff 1, Coleman 1, Moore 2), GC 3 (Wise 2, Oldham 1). Blocks: MV 0, GC 1 (Wise 1). Total fouls: MV 15, GC 14. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: MV 11, GC 10.