FORTVILLE —For all but one quarter, Mt. Vernon looked the part of a team that is coming off back-to-back sectional championships.
But one bad quarter from the Marauders was all the visiting Lawrence Central Bears needed to leave with a 65-55 win Tuesday at Mt. Vernon High School.
“We knew they would be experienced, and coach (Al) Gooden has a great team. They had a lot of guys returning, and we didn’t have as many,” Mt. Vernon head coach Ben Rhoades said. “But at the same time this was a good test for us, and it was what I thought it would be. We had a lot of fight, energy and effort, so I can’t complain about that at all.”
Both teams traded runs to open the game.
Lawrence Central jumped out to a 7-0 lead, and Mt. Vernon responded with the next seven points to tie it before the Bears reeled off eight straight to go back up 15-7.
The Marauders answered again with their second 7-0 run.
This time, though, Lawrence Central responded with the biggest run of the game to separate themselves from the Marauders for good.
In a 15-14 game, the Bears outscored the Marauders 16-2 the remainder of the half, and held Mt. Vernon to just four total points in the second quarter.
Outside of that quarter, the Marauders outscored the Bears 51-49.
“(There were) some times where we couldn’t keep the ball in front of us in that second quarter, and there were times where we just couldn’t secure a rebound,” Rhoades said. “It’s going to be physical, but that’s OK. We’ve just got to be physical and tough. The more we play, the more we’ll mature and be a good team.”
Down 16 in the third quarter, Mt. Vernon showed some fight, and a 10-2 spurt off baskets from Luke Ertel and Tanner Teschendorf cut the lead back down to just eight, 39-31.
Following a Lawrence Central bucket, a Julien Smith basket and free throw cut the margin to seven, the lowest since the opening quarter.
“More than anything, I’m proud of our guys for not giving up. They got up to 16, and we could’ve folded, but we didn’t and got it back to seven,” Rhoades said. “I’m very proud of our fight for being a group that only has one guy that has played much varsity at all.”
A Lawrence Central three-pointer from William Watts with just four seconds remaining in the third quarter capped off another 7-0 run for the Bears.
The last push from Mt. Vernon came late in the fourth when an 11-0 run fueled by Ertel brought them within five, 58-53, with just under two minutes remaining.
Da’John Craig reeled off five straight points for the Bears, capping things off with a ferocious dunk, to put things away.
“They’re bigger and more athletic than we are, and we’re playing a bunch of young kids, but that’s no excuse,” Rhoades said. “This is why we’re playing this schedule. We want games like this to test us, so we can see where we can get later in the year.”
The Marauders were led by two freshmen, Ertel and Smith.
Ertel led the way with 16 points — nine coming in the fourth quarter. Smith had 10.
“They’ve played a lot of basketball against high-level competition. I think that they’re just going to mature as the season goes on,” Rhoades said. “It’s a long journey that we have to go on, and we’re going to make it as best as we can. These guys really care, and they’re going to come back in here tomorrow and work the best that they can. We have a lot of young guys, but we’ll be fine.”
Lawrence Central 65, Mt. Vernon 55
Lawrence Central (1-0): Josh Mickens 6 5-6 17, Kamari Jones 5 0-0 11, Da’John Craig 4 1-2 10, Braylon Russell 3 1-1 8, Jacob Franklin 3 0-0 7, Bryson Luter 3 0-0 7, William Watts 1 0-0 3, Albert Gooden III 1 0-2 2
Mt. Vernon (0-1): Luke Ertel 6 2-2 16, Julien Smith 3 4-4 10, Tanner Teschendorf 3 2-3 9, Eli Bridenthal 3 2-3 8, Adam Hackett 3 0-0 7, Brady Firzgerald 1 0-0 3, R’mani Wells 1 0-1 2
3-point goals: Lawrence Central 6 (Jones 1, Craig 1, Franklin 1, Luter 1, Russell 1, Watts 1); Mt. Vernon 5 (Ertel 2, Teschendorf 1, Hackett 1, Fitzgerald 1)