GREENFIELD — The Mt. Vernon Marauders passed the test.
Riding a 13-game winning streak before entering the Class 4A Sectional 9 tournament this week, the seventh-ranked Marauders had a challenge in front of them.
They cleared all three hurdles in dominant fashion to claim their second straight sectional title and third in five years.
On Wednesday night, the Marauders (22-2) bested Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Pendleton Heights, 86-74, in the sectional quarterfinals before ousting No. 10 Anderson, 82-76, in a slugfest during Friday night’s semifinal round.
For the championship game inside a packed Dellen Automotive Gymnasium at Greenfield-Central High School on Saturday night, the Marauders, once again, faced a familiar foe.
Once more, they kept on winning.
Behind a game-high 26 points from senior guard Armon Jarrard, an IUPUI commit, the Marauders broke 80 points for a third consecutive game, defeating county rival New Palestine, 83-68, to push their winning streak to 16 straight.
The Marauders haven’t lost since Jan. 4 at 4A Westfield, 87-78, and have scored 80-plus points for a sixth time this season.
Against the Dragons (19-7), five Marauders reached double figures en route to the program’s 15th sectional title all time.
“This means a lot. Last year, we won it and we got to regional, but we feel like we could have advanced farther in the tournament,” Mt. Vernon senior Avery Williams Jr. said. “This year, we had our whole team back, so we wanted to make a run and hopefully get a state for basketball, too.”
Williams along with senior Ray Wells and junior Eli Bridenthal each played key roles in the Mt. Vernon football team’s 4A state-title run this past November, and they’ve continued the trend on the hardwood.
Wells had 15 points and seven rebounds in the sectional championship game, while Williams added 10 points and Bridenthal provided seven more. Senior Cooper Galli finished with 10 points, senior Amhad Jarrard, an IUPUI recruit, had 13 points and senior Gavin Sullivan converted the game’s final bucket for two.
Mt. Vernon used an 8-0 run in the second quarter to establish a double-digit lead, 24-14, and the Dragons cut the deficit to as low as seven points at the end of the third, but the Marauders put the game away in the fourth quarter.
“What they really are is resilient. They’re really locked into what we’re trying to do right now as a group, and they don’t want it to end,” Mt. Vernon head coach Ben Rhoades said. “It’s confidence. It’s not being conceited about what they’re doing. I think, they’re confident and they really believe in what they’re trying to accomplish, which is win every game right now.”
New Palestine had four players in double figures led by junior guard Blaine Nunnally’s 23 points. Senior Steele Brasfield, an Indian Tech recruit, finished with 21 points. Ben Slagley had 13 points and Ian Stephens added 11.
The Dragons had won four straight to reach the sectional title game, but they couldn’t avenge their 60-56 loss to Mt. Vernon during the regular season on Feb. 18.
“That’s a testament to the maturity of this group, having eight seniors. Most of them played a very integral part in what we did last year, also, and that really helped us,” Rhoades said. “At the end of the third quarter, I could hear them in the huddle. They just kept saying, ‘Eight more minutes. Eight more minutes.’ They know what it takes. You have to play a complete game. Four quarters.”
The Marauders will now advance to the Southport Regional on Saturday, March 12, drawing Ben Davis (21-6) in the first semifinal contest at 10 a.m. Indianapolis Cathedral (22-6) and Terre Haute North (23-4) will play in the second semifinal at noon. The regional title game is scheduled for 8 p.m.
See more photos from the game and read more about Mt. Vernon’s sectional championship victory in Tuesday’s edition of The Daily Reporter.
Mt. Vernon 83, New Palestine 68
Mt. Vernon;16;18;20;29; —;83
New Palestine;14;11;22;21; —;68
MT. VERNON (22-2): Avery Williams Jr. 3 3-3 10, Armon Jarrard 10 2-4 26, Cooper Galli 2 6-7 10, Amhad Jarrard 6 1-2 13, Ray Wells 5 5-6 15, Eli Bridenthal 2 2-2 7, Darren Smith 0 0-0 0, Gavin Sullivan 1 0-0 2. Totals: 29 19-24 83.
NEW PALESTINE (19-7): Ian Stephens 4 3-4 11, Bryant Nunnally 0 0-0 0, Blaine Nunnally 6 10-11 23, Steele Brasfield 8 1-3 21, Ben Slagley 6 1-1 13, Damon Hockett 0 0-0 0, Eian Roudebush 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 15-19 68.
3-point field goals: Mt. Vernon 6 (Williams 1, Ar. Jarrard 4, Bridenthal 1), New Palestine 5 (Blaine Nunnally 1, Brasfield 4).