FORTVILLE — Instead of carrying the momentum of a three-game winning streak, Mt. Vernon had the rustiness of a squad that hadn’t played in two weeks.
It wasn’t an ideal way to come into a matchup against one of the state’s top-ranked teams.
Against Westfield, ranked No. 15 in the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association poll, Mt. Vernon got off to a slow start, trailing as much as 15 points in the second quarter.
It dwindled the margin to three, before dropping a 53-37 decision to the Shamrocks in a battle of two of the state’s traditionally strong girls basketball programs at Mt. Vernon High School, Thursday.
Mt. Vernon was playing its first game since a 51-26 victory over Rushville on Nov. 18.
The Marauders had games postponed during that time frame so it would not conflict with the school’s state championship football run.
Both teams were a little sluggish early. Mt. Vernon, struggling with the Shamrocks pressure defense, had 11 first-quarter turnovers. Westfield had seven errors of its own, but the visitors were turning the Marauder mishaps to points.
Westfield led 12-4 after the first break and bumped its advantage to 21-6 before Mt. Vernon knocked it down to seven, 25-18, at halftime.
A strong finish to the half led to a strong start to the third quarter.
Mt. Vernon scored the first four points in the second half, getting buckets from Madison Swingle and Emily Minch.
Unfortunately for MV, Westfield took control again in the final 4:30 of the third period. Three conventional three-point plays and a trey from Hailey Remaks were part of a 16-4 run to end the quarter.
Again, the Marauders struggled with the Shamrocks pressure, committing eight third-quarter turnovers.
Mt. Vernon was unable to get it under double digits the rest of the night.
“We haven’t had a game in 14 days and that’s tough on kids,” Mt. Vernon head coach Julie Shelton said. “It’s like having your very first game all over again when you’ve had such a big layoff. Especially (with having a lot of young players this season), this was too big of a layoff for us.
“Hopefully we won’t have another layoff like that and we can start getting better.”
Along with the inactivity and Westfield defense, the Marauders had to deal with Shamrock 6-foot-3 senior forward Alyssa Crockett. The University of Michigan recruit had 31 points, including 18 of 18 at the free-throw line.
“She’s very, very good and we knew that going in,” Shelton said of Crockett. “We have to do a better job of finding good players than we did today. This is the first team we’ve played that’s had a player like that. Hopefully we’ll learn from it.”
Mt. Vernon got back in the game with a strong performance from its standout.
Minch had 10 points in the second quarter and led the Marauders with 20. Only a sophomore, the 6-2 guard/forward is already seeing Division I interest. Her job description has been a little different this year with the Marauders after losing a number of graduates from last year’s regional finalist team.
“She’s stepping up and taking a bigger role,” Shelton said of Minch. “We lost a lot of seniors and she didn’t have to play such a big role (last season). For a sophomore, I’ve been super proud of the role she’s taken and how she has stepped up and done a lot more for us this year.”
Westfield improved to 6-2. Its only losses are to two state-ranked teams, North Central and Fishers, ranked No. 7 and No. 8 respectively, in the IBCA poll. In the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association Class 4A poll, North Central is No. 5 and Fishers is No. 7. Westfield is not ranked in the ICGSA poll.
Mt. Vernon dropped to 4-2, its previous loss was against Franklin, No. 3 in Class 4A and No. 5 in the IBCA rankings.
Shelton believes her club can take some lessons away from Thursday’s loss as they head into a big Hoosier Heritage Conference game Saturday, also at home, against a strong Pendleton Heights team.
“If we can figure out how to be confident with the basketball and handle the ball, we can play with teams,” Shelton added. “Turnovers and handling the basketball was the difference in this game. A couple other positives, I thought Ellery played really aggressively and continued to stick with it. We got some good minutes from our young kids off the bench in spurts.”
Off the bench, sophomore Kaitlyn Laffey had four points.
Each team had just one double-figure scorer each. Mt. Vernon’s Khloe Patterson and Westfield’s Chesney Tebbe each had seven points.