Tourney Troubles: Marauders’ season comes to a close at Decatur Central Regional

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Mt. Vernon’s Madison Swingle brings the ball up the court against Ben Davis’s Kansas Robinson during their Class 4A Regional 3 semifinal game at Decatur Central High School on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.

Tom Russo | The Daily Reporter

INDIANAPOLIS — The way it ended was unlike the journey.

After a dominant start in Saturday’s Class 4A Regional 3 semifinal at Decatur Central High School, Mt. Vernon was eliminated from IHSAA girls basketball state tournament play, 53-49, by Ben Davis.

The Marauders (17-9) led by 11 points at the end of the first quarter and by as much as 12 in the second.

Led by its aggressive defensive pressure, Ben Davis (15-9) rallied to cut the margin to four by halftime. Mt. Vernon hung on throughout the third quarter before the Giants took their first lead — and never relinquished it — with 4:50 remaining in the final period.

With the graduation of four starters, including the top three scorers from last season’s 19-6 region finalist club, the 2021-22 season was a slow start with a strong finish.

There were a lot of new faces joining a handful of returning role players who were part of a sectional championship and regional semifinal victory.

“We have a brand new team and we’ve had to work so hard to bring this team together,” senior Madison Swingle said last week after the team won its second straight sectional title to advance to Saturday’s regional round. “We didn’t know each other that well at the beginning of the season. We spent hours doing bonding. We watched movies. We sang. We danced. We laughed. Now, these girls are my sisters. At the beginning of the season, I didn’t know anything about them.”

They got to know each other well on and off the court and they gelled. Swingle, classmate Shay Shipley and sophomore Ellery Minch had gone from contributors to focal points, while the new players were learning the ropes.

Prior to Saturday’s loss to the Giants, the Marauders had won seven of eight games, including avenging a regular-season loss — which was part of the team’s 4-3 start —to Pendleton Heights to earn the program’s 17th sectional title and third in the last four years.

“Since Christmas we have really come along,” Mt. Vernon coach Julie Shelton said. “Shay and Maddie, since Christmas, have really got into the role of the No. 1 and No. 2 player and having to handle the ball and score. They’ve always been on the varsity, but have never had to do those things.

“They got really good at that and it took some pressure off (our leading scorer) Ellery and helped her open up a little. Then, all the other kids got experience. So, we got better and better.”

On Saturday, the Marauders looked to be well on their way to back-to-back appearances in a regional title game.

Sophomore Easton Wampler opened scoring with a 3-pointer.

Midway through the period, Swingle, with an assist from Shipley, beat the Ben Davis pressure defense. Swingle scored on a lay-up, was fouled and added the free throw for a 10-2 lead.

After Ben Davis cut it to 10-7, Mt. Vernon scored the final eight points of the quarter, taking a double-figure lead, 18-7, on a bucket by senior Alaina Nugent.

A Wampler trey gave Mt. Vernon a 26-14 lead with 3:16 remaining until halftime.

Eventually, the Ben Davis pressure wore down the Marauders. At the intermission, the lead had been trimmed to 28-24. Mt. Vernon led most of the third quarter — there were two ties — but it could never extend the margin back to where it was much of the first half.

When Ben Davis’s Kaleah Toomer hit the first of her three fourth-quarter 3s, the Giants took a 42-41 lead with 4:50 remaining.

Nugent scored after grabbing a loose ball to cut the deficit to one, 50-49, with 21 seconds left, but it would be the team’s final points.

Ben Davis struggled at the free-throw line, hitting only 5 of 12 in the final 1:27, but the Giants made up for it by forcing a number of Marauder turnovers.

Mt. Vernon’s late opportunities turned into empty possessions.

For the game, Mt. Vernon committed 23 turnovers, most coming in the second (nine) and fourth (eight) quarters.

“I think Shay and Maddie, who were breaking the pressure the whole time early, at the end they didn’t have the legs to keep using their athleticism and quickness,” Shelton said. “(Ben Davis) was super athletic and they subbed a lot more than we did and had more depth. We also had some easy shots down the stretch that we missed. We had our chances for sure.”

Swingle led all scorers on Saturday with 18 points, including 8 of 10 free throws. Wampler scored 10 and Shipley had eight on 8 of 8 tries at the charity stripe. For the entire post season, Shipley went 16 of 16 at the line.

Shelton praised the competitiveness and all-around contributions of her team and her seniors, led by Swingle (Cincinnati) and Shipley (Northern Kentucky), who are both Division I soccer recruits. Nugent (Ohio) is a D-I bound golfer. The team’s other senior Riley Britt, started some last season, but was unable to play this year after an ACL tear during her soccer season.

Toomer led the Giants with 16 points. Cristen Carter and Taylor Guess scored 10 apiece.

The Giants hit just 9 of 23 free throws. Mt. Vernon converted 23 of 26.

The Giants had their season come to an end in Saturday’s regional championship game. They lost to Mooresville, 47-43.

Ben Davis 53, Mt. Vernon 49

Ben Davis;7;17;11;18;—;53

Mt. Vernon;18;10;9;12;—;49

Ben Davis (15-9): Kansas Robinson 2 0-1 6, Taylor Guess 4 2-8 10, Cristen Carter 3 4-6 10, Kirsten Clark 0 1-3 1, Kaleah Toomer 6 0-0 16, Johnai Wimbleduff 2 0-1 6, Sincere Coleman-Francis 0 2-4 2, Hermoni Andrew 0 0-0 0, Zoe Wheeler 0 0-0 0, London Brooks 1 0-0 2. Totals: 18 9-23 53.

Mt. Vernon (17-9): Ellery Minch 1 2-2 4, Alaina Nugent 3 0-0 6, Madison Swingle 5 8-10 18, Shay Shipley 0 8-8 8, Easton Wampler 3 2-2 10, Khloe Patterson 0 3-4 3, Kaitlyn Laffey 0 0-0 0, Kanyonrae Kenny 0 0-0 0. Totals: 12 23-26 49.

3-point goals: Ben Davis 8 (Toomer 4, Robinson 2, Wimbleduff 2); Mt. Vernon 2 (Wampler 2)