MUNCIE – There was no letdown. Not this time.
A year after falling short in its quest of a sectional championship repeat, the Mt. Vernon girls basketball team secured its first postseason goal on Saturday night.
Pitted against rival New Palestine during the Class 4A Sectional 9 championship game, the Marauders overcame a tug-of-war first half and erupted in the second half to win 49-28 inside Muncie Fieldhouse.
In 2019-20, the Marauders lost to New Palestine, 41-32, during the Richmond Sectional 9 quarterfinals, a season after claiming the title over the Dragons in the 2018-19 sectional final.
For the postseason rematch, the Marauders grabbed a 16-14 halftime lead and later strung together an 18-0 run in the second half to seize the program’s 16th sectional championship all time.
Mt. Vernon senior Lexi Shelton scored a game-high 16 points, converting 5 of 7 field goal attempts, while junior Maddie Swingle added nine points and senior Abby Worley had eight points.
The Marauders’ defense limited the Dragons to 14 second-half points and Mt. Vernon led by as many as 23 points in the game before celebrating its second sectional championship in three years.
Seven of the eight Marauders, who logged minutes on Saturday, contributed two or more points and buried a crucial 15 of 30 shot attempts combined in addition to 16 of 19 free throws.
The Marauders (18-5), who won the outright Hoosier Heritage Conference title for a second year in a row this season, defeated New Palestine, 43-29, during their regular-season meeting at home on Dec. 19.
In Muncie, the Marauders avenged postseasons past and didn’t allow a single Dragon to break double figures en route to their 11th consecutive victory and second 4A sectional championship.
New Palestine (15-10) led the game 10-6 through the first nine minutes, 13-12 with 2:36 remaining in the first half and 17-16 to open the second half on Saturday.
But the Dragons went scoreless for 10 minutes, 25 seconds, and the Marauders finished the third quarter on a 13-0 run that carried over into the fourth, which halted New Palestine’s bid at a championship repeat.
New Palestine won the 2019-20 sectional title over Anderson and Saturday’s championship game appearance marked the program’s fourth straight under head coach Sarah Gizzi.
The Dragons were led by junior Anna Ackerman’s seven points. Sophomore Isabella Gizzi had six points and senior Addi Jones finished with four points.
Head coach Julie Shelton’s Marauders will now advance into the Decatur Central Regional on Saturday, Feb. 13 and will play Roncalli (20-4) in the semifinal round at noon.
The other regional semifinal game includes top-ranked North Central (24-2) against Brownsburg (14-10) at 10 a.m. The regional championship game is scheduled for 8 p.m.
For more on the Marauders’ sectional championship victory, read Tuesday’s edition of the Daily Reporter.