INDIANAPOLIS — For three out of the four quarters Tuesday night, Mt. Vernon and Decatur Central matched each other point-for-point.
Behind the 3-ball, the Marauders outscored the Hawks 21-13 in the third quarter to secure the 61-53 win inside David “Doc” Rather Gymnasium.
Tied 23-23 at halftime, the Marauders opened the second half, hitting three quick 3-pointers.
Freshman Julien Smith hit two and senior Eli Bridenthal added one.
“Some things fell that quarter, and we got some good stops. There were times when we limited them to one shot, or we got some easy steals and buckets and went on a little run,” Mt. Vernon head coach Ben Rhoades said. “We just did a better job of getting some stops when we needed to. I think that we did a great job of sharing the ball today, and it was a great team effort.”
Mt. Vernon had its chances to put away the Hawks for good in the quarter, but some missed open shots allowed the Hawks to hang around.
“We knew if we just threw a couple extra passes we would get open shots. And we got a lot of open shots, and just missed a lot of open shots,” Rhoades said. “We hit them on Saturday, but tonight we just couldn’t hit them.”
Even with five made 3-pointers in the quarter and nine overall on the night, Rhoades wanted the Marauders to get more.
“I think if we could’ve gotten a little more, it would’ve been over for them, but we let them back in, and we’ll learn from them,” Rhoades said. “We made some mistakes, but we’ll look at that and improve before the next game.”
While putting the Hawks away for good in the third quarter was what Rhoades and the Marauders would’ve liked, letting them stick around was an important early season test for a young Mt. Vernon team.
“Well, I think for us having a young team, we knew they [Decatur Central] were going to keep fighting until the end,” Rhoades said. “I thought that we did a good job of not turning it over at the end, but we could have hit a few more free throws. We could’ve taken some smarter shots, but overall it was a good learning experience for our young guys.”
A Melikih Cunningham 3-pointer and KC Berry layup for the Hawks cut the Marauders lead down to just five, 56-51, with two minutes remaining in the game. After struggling from the line most of the quarter as a team, freshman Luke Ertel sealed the victory, going 4-4 from the line in the final two minutes.
As a team, Mt. Vernon was 9-for-15 from the line in the closing quarter and 14-for-22 overall.
Facilitating the offense all night long were the two freshmen — Smith and Ertel.
Smith led the team with 15 points, and Ertel added 12.
“They’ve now only played three varsity games, but they’re doing a great job of getting acclimated to what’s going on, the speed, the physicality, and I think over time that’s just going to help them as individuals and us as a team,” Rhoades said. “They’re definitely going to play a lot of minutes, so the more that they can help steady the ship for us, the better that’s going to be.”
Defensively, the Marauders were able to limit the players they game-planned for heading into the matchup.
In Decatur Central’s first game of the season, an 85-75 win over Christel House at Manual, senior Anthony Ball, and Berry combined for 47 points.
Last night, Mt. Vernon held them both to single digits. Ball had eight, and Berry added just nine.
“Those are two of their best players, and we had talked about that coming into the game. The last couple of days, we focused on that,” Rhoades said. “In their defense, they had a couple other guys (get) some points that we didn’t expect to score. They stepped up for their team, but overall we did a good job of focusing on the two guys that we needed to, and we knew that would be a recipe for success.”
Mt. Vernon is back in action Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at home against Fishers.
Mt. Vernon 61, Decatur Central 53
Mt. Vernon (2-1): Julien Smith 5 2-4 15 , Eli Bridenthal 3 4-4 11, Luke Ertel 3 5-6 12, Adam Hackett 4 1-2 11, Tanner Teschendorf 3 1-3 9, Conner Schank 1 0-1 2, Brady Fitzgerald 0 1-2 1. Totals: 19 14-22 61.
Decatur Central (1-1): Steven Rogers 4 2-2 12, Melekih Cunningham 5 2-2 13, Raekwon Cunningham 2 3-4 7, Ayden Lawson 2 0-0 4, Anthony Ball 2 4-6 8, KC Berry 3 1-4 9. Totals: 18 12-18 53.
3-point goals: Mt. Vernon 9 (Smith 3, Hackett 2, Teschendorf 2, Bridenthal 1, Ertel 1); Decatur Central 5 (Rogers 2, Berry 2, M. Cunningham 1)