By Brady Extin | Daily Reporter

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FORTVILLE – The Mt. Vernon girls’ basketball team held strong as the top team in the Hoosier Heritage Conference on Friday night.

At home, they defeated the visiting Greenfield-Central Cougars 55-19.

A win by the Cougars (12-9, 4-2) would’ve moved them into a first-place tie with both the Marauders (15-6, 5-0) and Pendleton Heights, but the Marauders showed early and often why they’re undefeated in HHC play.

“It feels great, and I was super proud of the girls because of coming in and knowing that we are at the top, and have to play a good game,” Mt. Vernon head coach Julie Shelton said. “Having that, you don’t know how the kids are going to come out, and I just thought they played hard and were focused on what we wanted to do.”

From the opening tip, the Marauders’ length defensively gave the Cougars issues.

Running a 2-3 zone, the Mt. Vernon defense held G-C to just one field goal in the first half, and only four field goals the entire game.

The ability to locate and pressure the G-C shooters in the zone led to the Cougars shooting 1-f0r-9 from 3-point range in the opening half, and 3-for-20 for the game.

“We really, really focus defensively. That’s what we do, and I think we’re getting better and better in that area,” Shelton said. “I felt like what we did a good job on tonight was talking and finding their shooters better than we usually do. I thought we really did a good job finding [Brooklyn] McConnell and [Aryana] Hibbard and trying to put a lot of pressure on them.”

The Cougars’ two main 3-point threats, Hibbard and McConnell, were limited to one made basket on the night. McConnell knocked down a third-quarter 3-pointer, and Hibbard was held scoreless.

The Cougars’ lone first-half basket came on a Jalyn Smith 3-pointer to tie the game at 3-3, but from there the Marauders reeled off a 14-2 run and outscored the Cougars 25-4 the remainder of the first half.

“It’s a good team. You try to prepare for them as much as you can, but trying to simulate that length and intensity that they have is really hard to do,” Greenfield-Central head coach Bradley Key said. “That team is tough. They’re literally tough girls, and if we want to compete with a team like that we have got to get tougher. The shots didn’t fall in the beginning and that wasn’t great, but if we want to beat a Mt. Vernon, we have to get tougher.”

Ellery Minch got things going for the Marauders in the opening quarter with two 3-pointers and eight points, and while she was held scoreless in the second, Khloe Patterson picked up where she left off and sparked a 16-point Marauder quarter with nine points of her own.

Minch led all scorers on the night with 19 points, and Patterson added 17.

While the Cougars ran a zone on defense — something that caused issues for the Marauders’ offense in their last loss against Noblesville — the Marauder shooters had little issue finding open shots.

Led by Minch’s four long-range baskets, the Mt. Vernon offense knocked down seven 3-pointers on the night.

“We hadn’t seen much zone all year until Noblesville, but since then, Shelbyville played a zone, and a couple teams in a row here now have played some zone,” Shelton said. “I think we’re just getting a little more comfortable with it.”

As they did in the first half, the Cougars started the second half with an early 3-pointer, but the offense stalled just as quick, and the Mt. Vernon offense picked up where it left off.

Minch immediately answered the G-C deep ball with two of her own to start a 12-0 run for the Marauders, capped off by two Patterson layups and a Kanyonrae Kenny layup to go up 42-10.

Kenny followed up Minch and Patterson in the scorebook with seven points.

Chaney Brown led the Cougars with 10 points, shooting 8-for-11 from the free-throw line.

Both teams are back in action Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against HHC opponents. Mt. Vernon travels to New Castle, and Greenfield-Central is at home against Yorktown.

Mt. Vernon 55, Greenfield-Central 19

Greenfield-Central;4;3;6;6;  ;19

Mt. Vernon;12;16;17;10;  ;55

Greenfield-Central (12-9, 4-2): Chaney Brown 1 8-11 10, Aryana Hibbard 0 0-0 0, Brooklyn McConnell 1 0-0 3, Katie Holmes 0 0-0 0, Jalyn Smith 1 0-0 3, Kammi Anderson 1 0-0 3, Taylor Smith 0 0-0 0, Emma Nelson 0 0-0 0, Juliann Jones 0 0-0 0, Addi Herrin 0 0-0 0. Totals: 4 8-11 19.

Mt. Vernon (15-6, 5-0): Ellery Minch 7 1-1 19, Kanyonrae Kenny 3 0-0 7, Khloe Patterson 8 1-2 17, Easton Wampler 2 0-0 5, Kaitlyn Laffey 1 2-4 4, Raegan Britt 0 0-0 0, Samantha Mrnak 1 0-0 3, Helene Stolle 0 0-0 0, Addison Bucksot 0 0-0 0, Katelynn Hawkins 0 0-0 0. Totals: 22 4-7 55.

3-point goals: Greenfield-Central 3 (J. Smith 1, McConnell 1, Anderson 1), Mt. Vernon 7 (Minch 4, Kenny 1, Wampler 1, Mrnak 1)