Marauders face tough task vs. No. 9 Red Devils


A look at the Class 4A Sectional 9 field at New Castle heading into tonight’s semifinals:

So far: In three games Tuesday and Wednesday that were decided by a total of 11 points, Richmond beat New Castle in overtime, Connersville went to overtime to defeat Pendleton Heights and Anderson held off Greenfield-Central. Connersville handed the Arabians just their second one-and-done sectional exit in nine seasons under coach Brian Hahn.

Tonight: The scare against former North Central Conference foe New Castle notwithstanding, Richmond takes a team without any visible weaknesses into its matchup with Mt. Vernon. “Strong, athletic and very aggressive,” Marauders coach Travis Daugherty summed up Wednesday. The Red Devils are 21-1 since Dec. 6. They dropped early games to Indianapolis Tech and North Central, then fell Feb. 17 at Warren Central. Otherwise, a deep, veteran lineup that includes seniors Davious Webster (6-foot-3, 15 ppg), Joel Okafor (6-0, 14.4 ppg), Auntonio Brown (6-2, 11.6 ppg) and Isaiah Rader (5-9, 8.9 ppg) and juniors Adrion Burns (6-3, 8.9 ppg) and Tommy Luce (5-8, 7.0 ppg) is unblemished. “They are so good around the rim,” said Daugherty, voicing his chief concern. “We will have to really commit to protecting the paint and keeping them off the offensive glass.” Mt. Vernon is equally balanced, albeit younger. Sophomores Michael Ertel (6-0, 15.5 ppg) and Erick Shepherd (6-5, 13.2 ppg) and juniors Miles Wayer (5-11, 10.5 ppg) and Michael Thompson (6-4, 9.0 ppg) pace the team. In the nightcap, Connersville pits the state’s sixth best defense (allowing 41.8 points per game) against an Anderson unit netting 61 points per night.

Projection: The gap between the ninth-ranked Red Devils and the up-and-coming Marauders is not as wide as their records indicate. Mt. Vernon is 5-2 during the last five weeks, including a 42-37 win against Yorktown on Feb. 27. Three days earlier, Richmond edged the Tigers 48-47. The Marauders also have a win against the same New Castle team that took Richmond to overtime Friday. It will register as an upset, but Mt. Vernon is plenty capable of advancing to a championship game. The Connersville-Anderson outcome will be decided by pace. Veteran coach Kerry Brown’s Connersville team has been masterful at dictating tempo this season. Since Jan. 1, the Spartans are 11-1 when allowing less than 50 points. Connersville’s two most recent losses, to New Palestine (75-68) and Northeastern (66-63), also marked Connersville’s highest offensive outputs of the year. Anderson will speed up the Spartans, but not quite enough to earn a win.

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Game capsules

Mt. Vernon (13-8) vs. Richmond (22-3)

Game time: 6 p.m.

Coaches: Travis Daugherty, 22-22 in 2nd year at Mt. Vernon, 140-107 in 11th year overall. Joe Luce, 113-32 in 6th year at Richmond, 266-111 in 16th year overall.

Sagarin ratings: Richmond, 88.87, 14th overall, 13th in Class 4A. Mt. Vernon, 81.28, 54th overall, 40th in Class 4A.

Vs. common foes: Mt. Vernon 2-1; Richmond 3-0

Opponents’ records: Mt. Vernon 248-230, Richmond 314-237

Series in past 30 years: Richmond, 5-1

Last meeting: Richmond, 58-43, March 4, 2014, sectional

Connersville (15-10) vs. Anderson (6-18)

Game time: 7:30 p.m.

Coaches: Kerry Brown, 74-67 in 6th year at Connersville, 156-165 in 14th year overall. Joe Nadaline, 40-50 in 4th year at Anderson, 49-61 in 5th year overall

Sagarin ratings: Connersville, 78.57, 79th overall, 50th in Class 4A. Anderson, 72.4, 123rd overall, 76th in Class 4A

Vs. common foes: Connersville 3-3; Anderson 2-4

Opponents’ records: Connersville 338-242, Anderson 338-221

Series in past 30 years: Tied, 1-1

Last meeting: Connersville, 51-47, OT, March 2, 2011, sectional

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“Strong, athletic and very aggressive.”

– Mt. Vernon coach Travis Daugherty, summing up Richmond