PENDLETON — The Hoosier Heritage Conference portion of Mt. Vernon’s boys’ basketball schedule didn’t start to the Marauders’ liking.
They are far from discouraged.
The quick trek up State Road 9 to take on rival Pendleton Heights ended in a 59-49 loss to the Arabians, Friday.
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Both teams are 2-2 on the young season, though the Arabians start 1-0 in the HHC to the Marauders’ 0-1.
“We’ll get better,” Mt. Vernon coach Ben Rhoades said. “That’s what we just told them. They should be disappointed, but we shouldn’t walk out with our heads down, because we have a long way to go. We’ll look at this (today) as a group and I think we’ll learn.”
Mt. Vernon seemed to have a decent handle on Pendleton Heights’ top player Tristan Ross. The 6-foot-6 senior — two inches taller than any Marauder that saw significant minutes — came in averaging 16.7 points and 16.7 rebounds per game, including a school-record 22 rebounds in his team’s opening season win at Anderson.
Ross hit just 5 of 16 shots and had 15 points, but the Arabians made up for it with some dead-eye shooting from long range.
Pendleton Heights’ guards Davrick Black and Jamison Dunham each went 4 of 7 from 3-point range. Black, a junior, had a game-high 24 points. Dunham scored 16.
“They were (big tonight),” Pendleton Heights coach Kevin Bates said of his perimeter shooters. “If those guys can continue to do that, it’s just going to open up Tristan so much more with his isolations. When he got isolated, especially down the stretch, he made some big-time plays to put us in position to win.”
Down just four at half, 25-21, Mt. Vernon opened the second half with buckets on its first two possessions. Armon Jarrard and Amhad Jarrard each scored a two-pointer, but both possessions were quickly answered by treys from Dunham and Black.
After Ross hit a free-throw and Dunham nailed another from downtown, the Arabians had turned a nip-and-tuck game into a 10-point advantage, 35-25.
Pendleton Heights led by as much as 11. Mt. Vernon cut it to five in the fourth quarter, getting some impressive work on the offensive end from Amhad Jarrard and Drew Walker.
Walker drained a 3-pointer to cut it to 43-35. Amhad Jarrard missed a pair of free throws, but he was able to get the loose ball rebound, score, and go to the line and convert a three-point play. With 5:29 remaining, Mt. Vernon had narrowed the margin to 43-38.
Unfortunately for the Marauders, they were unable to get any closer.
Like Bates mentioned, Ross was able to do some things late after his perimeter shooters hit their marks. Ross had two fourth-quarter field goals, the only period where he made multiple shots.
“They just executed their game plan better than us,” Rhoades added. “I thought, overall, as a team, they played harder than we did. They got all the 50-50 balls. It was our first conference game, but it was their first conference game, too.
“We have to get better defensively, because there are going to be days that shots aren’t going to fall, like tonight, and we didn’t get stops when we had to have them. That was the disappointing part, but this is a great learning experience. We’re just four games in and there’s a long way to go.”
The Marauders had a lead early. Pendleton Heights scored the first seven points of the game, but Mt. Vernon followed with the next 10. Pendleton Heights scored the final five points of the first period and never trailed again, though it wasn’t able to pull away until late.
Ahmad Jarrard led MV scorers with 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists. He was 8 of 14 from the field. Walker hit 5 of 11 shots and was 4 of 7 from 3-point range to add 14 points. The rest of the Marauders hit just 4 of 18 (22 percent) field-goal attempts.
Mt. Vernon returns to action Dec. 20 with another HHC game, hosting Shelbyville.
“The most positive thing about this group is they listen to what we’re telling them,” Rhoades said. “They’re trying to do the right thing and I’m convinced if we try to do the right thing, good things are going to happen to us in the future.”