Business as Usual: Marauders ready for regional challenge ahead at Southport

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Mt. Vernon head coach Ben Rhoades draws up one final play in the closing seconds against Anderson during the Class 4A Sectional 9 championship game on Saturday, March 6, 2021. ( Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

FORTVILLE — With the exception of a Tuesday night field trip to Southport for practice, the Mt. Vernon Marauders haven’t changed much in preparation for the program’s first regional appearance since 2018.

For the most part, the Marauders have stuck to their routine the past few days, and, that’s exactly how Mt. Vernon head coach Ben Rhoades likes it.

Turning the page on Monday after winning the team’s first sectional in three years and 14th overall this past weekend in Richmond, the Marauders are using their time wisely with a difficult task ahead at Southport Fieldhouse.

Class 4A Mt. Vernon (17-6) is scheduled to play No. 6 Plainfield (23-2) at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Saturday in the second regional semifinal game in Southport, following No. 3 Lawrence North (25-2) vs. Ben Davis (14-11) at 10 a.m.

The winners advance into the championship game at 8 p.m.

“To get (to Southport Fieldhouse for practice) the earlier the better is the way I look at it because I like to have a little bit of a sense of normalcy and get back to our regular week as quick as we could,” Rhoades said.

On Tuesday evening, the team conducted a full workout at Southport to get familiar with the court. Afterwards, the Marauders had a team dinner to sharpen its chemistry, which has proved significant this postseason.

During the Richmond Sectional, Mt. Vernon notched it’s fourth straight victory in eight days, capped by a 69-65 triumph over Anderson in the finals last Saturday. Prior to their 3-0 run in Richmond, the Marauders had won 11 of their last 16 contests.

The Marauders’ cohesiveness, however, wasn’t simply a result of winning their regular-season finale at home against Yorktown, 57-46, on Feb. 26 to claim a share of the Hoosier Heritage Conference title or their performance last week in Richmond.

It started On Dec. 6 and continued to build for the next 23 days as the team dealt with several COVID-19 contact tracing postponements and sat idle until Dec. 30.

“It was hard. We were in a groove, and we started off really hot. It was hard getting back into it,” Mt. Vernon senior Drew Walker recalled on the layoff. “We had some close losses when we got back, one’s we probably should have won, but we kept bouncing back and moving forward.”

The progress led to a four-game winning streak from Jan. 8-19 and a 9-2 stretch over the course of 22 days.

“It gave us a time to step back from some games and to focus on some things we needed to focus on as a group. Whether it was installation of certain new things here or there or not, but I think it gave us time to be around each other every day,” Rhoades reflected on his team’s in-season hiatus.

“Maybe it was a time for us to come together as a team because since we had that layoff, we’ve played pretty well to be perfectly honest.”

With 17 wins this season, the total marks the first plus-.500 record for the program since 2017-18 and the most victories in five years when the 2015-16 team finished 18-5.

“We’ve dropped a couple along the way, but I think overall, our team chemistry has improved as the season has gone on and they’re reaping the benefits of that right now,” Rhoades said.

The reward is a trip to regional where the Marauders haven’t won a game at the 4A level in program history.

As a 3A school, Mt. Vernon ran through the regional tournament in 2012-13 to reach the semistate. The Marauders’ regional title eight years ago was the program’s third (1987, 1991) all time and first in the classification era.

The goal for the Marauders against the Plainfield Quakers and their active four-game winning streak is four of their own, namely a potential regional title.

“We have a lot of talent. We’re still young, starting four juniors, so it’s just taken time to really find each other and work together,” Walker said. “These past couple of weeks, we’ve played really well together, shared the ball and hit a lot of shots. It’s been a fun ride, but it’s not over yet.”

The Quakers won’t be an easy win, though.

Plainfield put together a 17-game run after opening the year 2-1 before losing to 3A No. 2 Silver Creek, 68-61, on Feb. 20.

Their championship run at the Avon Sectional last week marked the program’s first title since 1999 when the Quakers ran the table to win the 3A state crown at the RCA Dome.

A predominantly senior-led group, the Quakers won the Mid-State Conference outright at 7-0 this season and showcases a trio of double-digit scoring threats in seniors Ian Scott (16.9 points per game), Aidan Booher (10.0 ppg) and junior Cael Vanderbush (12.7 ppg).

Senior Dayne Garnder (8.7 ppg) isn’t far off the double-figure pace, and under head coach Andy Weaver, the Quakers are averaging 59.3 points scored and 45.9 allowed per contest.

“It’s not the same as any other game, obviously, we’re fortunate enough to be playing in the regional, but we’ve been able to focus a lot on what we want to do and we were able to take a couple of days and focus on some things we didn’t do as well as we wanted to do last week,” Rhoades said. “At the same time, we’ve been working on some details of the things we want to do this weekend.”

The first is contending with Plainfield’s length and height with Scott standing 6-foot-7, Vanderbush at 6-6, Gardner at 6-2, Booher at 6-4 and a few more players at 6-2 or taller.

“A lot of those guys at Plainfield have played varsity for three or four years. They’ve played their whole lives for this time, is what I would guess, because Plainfield hadn’t won a sectional in so long,” Rhoades said.

“Obviously, we’re going to play our game and have a couple of wrinkles here and there, but at the same time we’re preparing to see what we can do to try to take away some of their strengths.”

Unselfishness as been the Marauders’ secret weapon.

As a team, Mt. Vernon is averaging 65.4 points per game and allowing 57.2. A near mirror image of the Quakers in production, junior Armon Jarrard (13.0 ppg), junior Amhad Jarrard (12.9 ppg) and junior Razhaun Wells (10.2 ppg) gives Mt. Vernon a triple-threat of its own.

Junior Cooper Galli is averaging 8.2 ppg, and as junior Avery Williams Jr. showed with 17 points during the Marauders’ 62-37 win over rival Greenfield-Central in the sectional semifinals, anyone can contribute at any time.

“Every game someone else stepped up. A.J. (Avery) stepped up in the semifinals. We had a bunch of threes (in the finals) and we hit a bunch of free throws in the end,” Walker said. “It’s been a team effort.”

On Saturday, the Marauders will adhere to the same philosophy, much like the past few days.

“The kids have been business as usual this week. We had some fun when we went to Southport, obviously, but I feel they’re really focused and I think, yes, we won the sectional and everyone is really happy with that, but I still think that these guys think that this doesn’t have to be over,” Rhoades said.

“That’s what I enjoy the most about them. I’m very happy for our seniors being able to win their first sectional, but I just feel as a group everyone has meshed really well the last two or three weeks. I don’t think they’re ready to be done yet.”

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Class 4A Southport Regional

At Southport Fieldhouse

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Semifinals

Game 1: Lawrence North vs. Ben Davis, 10 a.m.

Game 2: Mt. Vernon vs. Plainfield, 12:35 p.m.

Championship

Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 8 p.m.

  • Game times are as provided by IHSAA and Maxpreps

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Mt. Vernon Regional Semifinal Information

Doors Open: 11:45 a.m.

Location: Southport Fieldhouse

Maximum Capacity: 3,000 per game

Tickets: Must be purchased in advance online (visit maraudersathletics.com for link). Tickets are only good for one game.

Cost: $8

Additional Information

  • Masks are required at all times.
  • Social distancing is expected.
  • The student section will be at the south end of the gym. A wristband will be required in order to be in the student section. (Distribution of wristbands: Students must purchase a ticket and show their email receipt in the athletic office to obtain a wristband. Screenshots are not accepted. Visit maraudersathletics.com for more details on distribution.)
  • Fans are not permitted on the floor before, during or after the game.
  • Conclusion of the game: Spectators are to exit the fieldhouse immediately following the conclusion of the game.
  • Parking: Fans should park in the East lot (corner of Banta Road and Shelby Street). Overflow parking is available in the West lot via Banta Road.
  • Gate Entrance: Fans will enter Southport Fieldhouse through Doors 3 and 4.

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