Turning It Around: Marauders charge back to beat Trojans, take lead in HHC

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Mt. Vernon’s Armon Jarrard defends against New Castle on Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)

NEW CASTLE — Before the opening tip on Thursday night, Mt. Vernon boys basketball coach Ben Rhoades scanned the New Castle Chrysler Fieldhouse floor and muttered aloud the undeniable.

“I’m 0-1 here,” he remarked.

By evening’s end, Rhoades’ Marauders gave him an early Christmas present by charging back from a nine-point, first-half deficit to take sole possession of first place in the Hoosier Heritage Conference.

Mt. Vernon trailed 29-23 at halftime and then turned on the defense to put together a decisive 13-0 run in the third quarter and beat the host New Castle Trojans 63-52.

The Marauders’ fourth straight win propeled them to 3-0 in the HHC and 5-1 overall, while New Castle dropped to 7-2 overall and 2-1 in the conference.

Mt. Vernon senior Armon Jarrard scored a team-high 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting with eight rebounds, three steals and three assists. His twin brother, senior Amhad, had 15 points on 5 of 9 shooting with seven rebounds and four assists.

Avery Williams, a senior, added 10 points with a pair of 3-pointers, as Mt. Vernon drew contact and converted 19 of 22 foul shots and ran away from the Trojans in the second half with back-to-back 20-point frames.

“We had to get on them and put a little bit more pressure on them on defense,” Amhad Jarrard said. “We had to get everybody involved.”

New Castle ran out to an early 7-3 lead against the Marauders, but neither team pulled away with four ties through the first six minutes. The Trojans strung together a 6-3 run to break an 11-all deadlock, as junior Gavin Welch scored 14 of his game-high 18 points in the first half.

Welch entered the game averaging 14.3 points per contest with 5.2 rebounds. He finished with three rebounds. New Castle big man, Dawson Scott, who is 6-foot-4, had 8 of his 15 points in the first half and hauled in a team-high 15 rebounds in the game.

New Castle jumped in front 27-18 with 3:22 left in the first half for their largest lead, but a 5-0 run by the Marauders foreshadowed their turn around.

“That’s part of us maturing as a group. We have to come out stronger and take it. They hadn’t lost a conference game yet. They only lost one game to Anderson, and we talked all week about how they were going to try to come out,” Rhoades said. “They’re probably the most fundamental team we’ve played all year, so we knew we needed to make sure that we took care of the ball and played well defensively. In the beginning of the game, New Castle played really, really well.”

New Castle went to work in the first half with quick cuts to the basket, which the Marauders closed off in the second half.

Down 34-27 midway through the third quarter, Mt. Vernon rallied back with 13 unanswered points, starting with a pair of Amhad Jarrard foul shots. Jarrard scored six straight points, capped by a breakaway, two-handed dunk off a steal by Ray Wells.

The Marauders forced six turnovers in the frame and led 40-34 before the Trojans could respond.

“Coach was telling us to get to the basketball and to the rim. Stop settling for outside shots,” Amhad Jarrard said. “We had to make sure we did it in the second half.”

Armon Jarrard’s steal and dunk with 2:39 remaining in the third quarter made it 35-34 in the Marauders’ favor. An advantage they never relinquished.

“They got some open shots and we lost our man on defense a couple of times, and we weren’t rebounding in the first half,” Rhoades said. “We kind of changed that in the second half, and I’d say that had a lot to do with our run. We can do that. If we’re going to be a good team, we have to be able to do that the entire game. We can’t wait until we’re behind. We can’t pick and choose when to turn it on. When the offense isn’t going well, you can still do that on defense. I didn’t feel like in the first half we played with that mentality.”

The Marauders grabbed 10 defensive rebounds in the second half with 27 overall. Cooper Galli had eight points and seven rebounds.

Amhad Jararrd added the exclamation point to end the third quarter, burying a 3-pointer at the buzzer that put Mt. Vernon up 43-37.

A Mt. Vernon 10-2 run that carried into the fourth quarter increased the margin to 11 points at 50-39.

“At halftime, we just talked about coming out more aggressive. More basic. It wasn’t about fouling. It was about getting deflections, loose balls when you have the advantage and go score it when you got it,” Rhoades said.

New Castle closed the gap to six points late in the fourth, but the Marauders converted 7 of 9 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

Last year, Mt. Vernon beat New Castle at home, 74-60. In 2019-20, the Marauders lost 41-38 at New Castle. Mt. Vernon is now 3-1 against the Trojans in Rhoades’ four seasons.

“This conference is hard to win in on the road or at home, and this is always just a tough place to play,” Rhoades said. “It’s a different gym compared to most gyms you play in, but it’s a great place to play, and it’s a nice place to get a win.”

Mt. Vernon 63, New Castle 52

Mt. Veron;14;9;20;20; — ;63

New Castle;17;12;8;15; — ;52

Mt. Vernon (5-1, 3-0 HHC): Armon Jarrard 6 4-5 16, Avery Williams 3 2-3 10, Cooper Galli 2 4-4 8, George Burhenn 2 1-2 5, Amhad Jarrard 5 4-5 15, Ray Wells 1 2-2 4, Eli Bridenthal 1 2-2 5, Gavin Sullivan 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 19-22 63.

New Castle (7-2, 2-1 HHC): Gavin Welch 7 202 18, Dawson Scott 6 3-3 15, Trey Miller 2 2-2 7, Caleb Grow 1 0-0 3, Sam Maddy 3 0-0 6, Ethan Hinton 0 0-0 0, Colin Taylor 1 0-0 3. Totals: 20 7-7 52.

3-point goals: Mt. Vernon 4 (Williams 2, Am. Jarrard 1, Bridenthal 1); New Castle 5 (Welch 2, Miller 1, Grow 1, Taylor 1).