New Expectations: Marauders fall in regional semis, set new program standard in process

0
296
Mt. Vernon head coach Ben Rhoades talks with his starting lineup before their Class 4A Regional 3 semifinal game against Plainfield at Southport High School on Saturday. Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

SOUTHPORT — It wasn’t the ending they envisioned, but the Mt. Vernon Marauders didn’t see Saturday’s Class 4A Regional 3 semifinal loss, 61-52, to No. 6 Plainfield as a finality.

Instead, the Marauders’ first loss in four games served as a lesson, one immediately absorbed, processed and applied as they looked forward.

With six of the team’s seven regulars set to return in 2021-22, the Marauders took pride in their accomplishments this season, reflected on their five-month progression and ultimately identified what could be when five of those six will be seniors.

“It’s tough, but we’re just going to use this as motivation for next year,” Marauders’ junior Amhad Jarrard remarked after his team’s state tournament run concluded inside Southport Fieldhouse. “We’ll be back.”

Mt. Vernon finished the season with a 17-7 record, the program’s best mark since going 18-5 in 2015-16. The Marauders also clinched a share of the Hoosier Heritage Conference team title at 6-1 in league play, a first since 2016.

If not for one setback against rival New Palestine last month, they would have snapped an outright HHC title drought that stretches back to 2010.

Just like their first regional tournament appearance since 2018, it’s been a journey of incremental hurdles for the Marauders that they are still focused on clearing before the true conclusion.

Last year, the Marauders finished the 2019-20 campaign 11-12. The year prior, they were 11-12 in head coach Ben Rhoades’ first season at the helm.

Their sectional championship this March represented the Marauders’ second in four years and 14th overall, with the last one unfolding in 2018. Their postseason run propelled the program into its third sectional finals appearance in four years.

Maybe, much like the 2010 sectional championship Marauders, who turned the page in 2013 to win the school’s third regional all time, this group is asking the same question.

And, the current juniors are determined to give it their best shot after the experienced gained, even in defeat.

“The guys who aren’t seniors can learn a lot from this, Amhad and the other guys included. I think, this will be something that can maybe drive them to want to improve and hopefully want to get back here next year,” Rhoades said.

“Every year, you start at ground zero and you have to work and it’s a journey the whole year to get where you get. This year, our journey led us further than we ever had reached my first two years here, and obviously, you want that journey to go farther.”

In a way, the Marauders ran into what could be their future selves during the Regional 3 semifinals.

Plainfield (24-3), a team that hadn’t won a sectional title since 1999, charged into the regional finals on Saturday night — eventually losing to No. 3 Lawrence North, 43-39 —  behind a nucleus of six seniors.

As the Marauders faced an immediate 10-point deficit in the first quarter, the Quakers’ seniors served up the most damage from the outset.

Seniors Dayne Gardner and Ian Scott both contributed 10 of Plainfield’s first 14 points and pushed the margin to 12 points, 22-10, by the midway point of the second quarter.

Both posted game-high 17 points, followed by junior Cael Vanderbush’s 16 as the Quakers shot 56 percent from the field and out rebounded the Marauders 33-26.

“They’re obviously very well coached, very fundamental. They move the ball really well and they took advantage of any mistake that we made on defense and got some really good looks at the basket,” Rhoades said. “I guess, I was disappointed in the number of times they were able to get rebounds, but hey, they were tough today. They played really hard and they deserved to advance.”

The Marauders trailed 30-16 by halftime, but cut the deficit to 10 points twice to start the third quarter.

Jarrard’s putback with 5 minutes, 52 seconds left in the third narrowed the gap 30-20, and the 6-foot-4 guard made it 34-24 with 4:21 remaining in the frame with a slick layup.

Jarrard and fellow junior Razhaun Wells both posted a team-high 13 points. Junior reserved guard Avery Williams Jr. had 11 points on 4 of 7 shooting.

Seven different Marauders provided two or more points in the loss, including six that will be back next season.

“This year, we had a great group of kids that came together here at the end and played really hard. They got rewarded for how they played (with a sectional title), and I think that moving forward they’ll want to take that journey farther than they did last year,” Rhoades said.

Coach Andy Weaver’s Plainfield squad knew the journey and postseason heartbreak well, entering their first regional in 22 years. A 19-win program in 2018-19 after consecutive seasons of 14 and 13 wins, respectively, the Quakers went 6-17 in 2015-16.

“That’s the good part because we know we can do it again and take it further the next time,” Wells remarked on the potential future. “We learned from it. We just have to work every day next year, get better and do better. We didn’t put our foot on the gas quick enough.”

The Quakers did, however, and as Mt. Vernon tried to close in, they pushed their lead to a game-best 22 points with 3:57 left in the game.

Up by 19 points, 61-42, Plainfield pulled their starters with 1:25 remaining, as did the Marauders.

From there, Williams Jr. and others ended the game on a 10-0 run to finalize the score, but not what the program hopes will be in eight months time once the 2021-22 season begins and possibly next March.

“I feel really bad for the three seniors (Drew Walker, Cameron Lusby and Chris Hays) that today is how it ended for them. But, I think, that hopefully we learn from this moving forward with the players we have coming back,” Rhoades said.

“For all those guys that came in at the end, that shows the kind of team we are because we were down 19 points, and those guys came in and played hard to get a couple of buckets. To me, that was a rewarding part of the game to see that they finished strong and didn’t just walk in and decide it was over.”

There’s only more work to be done, said Wells.

“There’s a lot of fight in this team. I felt like we could have fought harder, way harder than we did. It wasn’t our best, but we’ll be back,” Wells said.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Scoreline” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Class 4A Regional 3

at Southport Fieldhouse

Semifinals

Plainfield 61, Mt. Vernon 52

Plainfield;14;16;15;16;—;61

Mt. Vernon;6;10;13;23;—;52

MT. VERNON (17-7): Amhad Jarrard 5 2-2 13, Razhaun Wells 6 0-2 13, Avery Williams Jr. 4 2-3 11, Armon Jarrard 2 2-2 6, Cooper Galli 2 0-0 4, Chris Hays 1 1-1 3, Eli Bridenthal 1 0-0 2, Cameron Lusby 0 0-0 0, Drew Walker 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 8-13 52.

PLAINFIELD (24-2): Dayne Gardner 7 2-2 17, Ian Scott 8 1-1 17, Cael Vandersbush 7 2-5 16, Aiden Booher 2 0-0 5, Durray Smith 2 0-0 4, Aiden Moyers 1 0-0 2, Damarius Huether 0 0-0 0, Caden Vanderbush 0 0-0 0, Cooper Martin 0 0-0 0. Totals 27 5-8 61.

3-Pointer: MV 2-16 (Williams Jr. 1-2, Wells 1-2); PHS 2-7 (Gardner 1-1, Booher 1-3).

[sc:pullout-text-end]