Proving Grounds: Marauders face tough stretch ahead; Cougars, Royals set to clash

0
1943

Mt. Vernon’s Amhad Jarrard goes up to slam dunk against Shelbyville on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

HANCOCK COUNTY — The Mt. Vernon boys basketball team had to settle for a tie atop the Hoosier Heritage Conference last season. This year, the Marauders are thinking a potential outright championship.

With three conference games down and four more to go, the Marauders (5-1, 3-0 HHC) took a crucial step on Thursday night, defeating New Castle, 63-52, on the road to break an early-season, league deadlock in the standings.

“That’s big. We just have to keep going. Keep winning games. Keep playing defense and keep up the intensity,” Mt. Vernon senior Amhad Jarrard remarked after scoring 15 points during his team’s recent win.

New Castle (7-2, 2-1 HHC) dropped into a second-place tie with Yorktown (4-2, 2-1 HHC), while both New Palestine (4-2, 1-1 HHC) and Greenfield-Central (4-4, 1-1 HHC) remain in the hunt.

Last season, the Marauders shared the HHC title with Delta after finishing 6-1 in the league, while New Palestine was second at 5-2. Since 1993-94, the Marauders have won four HHC team titles. Of those four, only one has been outright in 2009-10.

In 2015-16, Mt. Vernon earned the label of HHC co-champions with New Castle. The program also tied Delta for the title in 2008-09.

“We said all along. Both of us were undefeated in the conference at the time. We could control what was going on, if we just take care of our business,” Mt. Vernon head coach Ben Rhoades said after the Marauders’ win at New Castle. “We had the opportunity.”

Before Mt. Vernon’s next HHC contest at Greenfield-Central on Friday, Jan. 7, the team will be tested further with two tough non-conference games.

The Class 4A Marauders host top-ranked 4A Zionsville (8-0) tonight and on Tuesday, Jan. 4, they travel to 4A No. 11 Westfield (4-2) in an attempt to build upon their current five-game winning streak.

The unbeaten Zionsville Eagles are paced by junior prospect Logan Imes, a 6-foot-4 AAU standout with Indiana Elite.

Following a similar trajectory on the summer circuit as former Indiana All-Star Yogi Ferrell of Park Tudor and former Mr. Basketball Kyle Guy of Lawrence Central, Imes averaged 13.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as a sophomore. This season, he’s averaging 20.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

Zionsville junior Nick Richart (9.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg), senior Isaiah Davis (9.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and senior Johnathan Macabee (7.1 ppg) provide ample support behind Imes.

The Marauders have three players averaging double-digits in senior Ray Wells (10.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Armon Jarrard (16.3 ppg) and twin brother Amhad Jarrard (15.5). Both Jarrards are committed to IUPUI.

Mt. Vernon’s final two HHC contests will wrap up its regular season. The Marauders host rival New Palestine on Feb. 18, in what could be a determining game for the league championship.

The Marauders travel to Yorktown on Feb. 25 for their final game before postseason play begins.

Rivalry Night

Tonight, the Class 2A Eastern Hancock boys basketball team heads to 4A Greenfield-Central for a Hancock County rivalry game at 7:30 p.m.

Their meeting marks the 44th in the past 35 years with the host Cougars owning a 31-12 series advantage in that time frame. Greenfield-Central narrowly won the last match-up 55-53 on Jan. 30, 2016.

Both teams enter tonight’s contest with a combined nine wins and five losses, but the visiting Royals (5-1) are the lone county program ranked in the state at 12th overall in 2A.

The Royals are 0-1 against county foes this year, losing to New Palestine, 44-41, on Dec. 3, after opening the year 1-0 with a thrashing of Centerville at Historic Hoosier Gym in Knightstown on Nov. 24.

Since its loss at home to New Palestine, Eastern Hancock has won four straight games, including a 72-45 victory against Mid-Eastern Conference opponent Wes-Del on the road, Dec. 4.

Their 72 points against Wes-Del marked the second-highest total for the Royals.

This year, the Royals have a trio of double-digit scorers led by senior Landon O’Neal, who is averaging 15.2 points per game. Junior Jacob Spaulding isn’t far behind at 14.3 ppg, and twin brother, Silas Spaulding, is averaging 12.3 ppg.

Eastern Hancock’s Grant Gray (6.2 ppg), Edric Miller (5.2 ppg), Cyrus Burton (4.5 ppg) and Cole Rainbolt (3.2 ppg) have provided key buckets throughout the team’s recent winning streak.

As a group, the Royals are shooting 46 percent this season and have converted 62 of 160 attempts from 3-point range at 39 percent.

Their best single-game, 3-point performance unfolded against rival Knightstown on Dec. 17, when the Royals buried 14 of 29 attempts at 48 percent. The Royals shot 50 percent from 3-point range against Centerville (10 of 20), and they have made 10 or more treys in four of their six games at 10, 12, 14 and 13.

Greenfield-Central (4-4, 1-1 HHC) is looking to rebound after consecutive road losses at Lawrenceburg, 50-47, on Dec. 18, and at Connersville, 55-33, on Dec. 21.

Prior to their setbacks, the Cougars won back-to-back at home against Speedway, 72-44, on Dec. 11, and versus HHC foe Yorktown, 72-65 in overtime, on Dec. 17.

The Cougars are 4-0 at home this year, and in three of those four games, they’ve posted their highest field goal percentages at 62 and 55, twice. In two of those wins, they’ve also registered their best-point totals of 72.

Three-point shooting was a factor in a pair of G-C’s wins against Hagerstown, 71-40, on Dec. 3, and against Yorktown, with both game’s showcasing the program’s efficiency at 52 and 53 percent, respectively.

The Cougars’ offense is being powered by junior Dylan Moles (16.9 ppg) and freshman Braylon Mullins (14.3 ppg). Senior Joey Roland is providing 8.3 ppg and 4.6 rebounds.

Mullins set a season-high with 22 points against Hagerstown, while Moles has a trio of 21-or-more point outings. Moles’ 24 points in the Cougars’ season-opening loss at Beech Grove, 56-45, on Nov. 23 was a single-game, career high.

Royals keep winning

While the Eastern Hancock boys basketball team has worked its way into the state rankings, the girls team has solidified its position in the state’s top 10 at 12-1 overall this season.

The Royals have won nine games in a row and are striving to surpass their best, single-season record at 18 victories (since 1975-76). The Royals reached the 18-win mark in 1999-2000 under former head coach Pete Hubert at 18-3, and they went 18-4 in 2001-02 under former head coach DeAnn Edge.

Eastern Hancock’s current head coach Shari Doud led the program to her best, single-season, wins total at 17-8 in 2015-16.

The Royals are also 6-0 in the MEC with three more wins to go for a potential outright conference title. Eastern Hancock’s last conference title was in 1998-99 when affiliated with the White River Athletic Conference.

The Royals return to the court on Tuesday, Jan. 4 at home against MEC foe Blue River in search of a 10th consecutive win and a commanding lead in the league standings.

Eastern Hancock’s lone loss this year was at 2A Triton Central, 50-41, on Nov. 13. The team is 5-0 against Class A teams, 1-0 against 3A programs and 6-1 against 2A foes, including an 80-73 quadruple-overtime thriller versus MEC opponent Wapahani on Nov. 27.