FORTVILLE — Good defense.

A rival opponent.

The pressure of the moment.

A near-full house at Mt. Vernon High School.

They all played a factor in Friday’s Class 4A Sectional 9 semifinal girls basketball game between Pendleton Heights and host Mt. Vernon.

The Marauders, for the third straight year, and fifth straight time in postseason matchups, put an end to the Arabians season.

In a game that had nearly as many turnovers as points, Mt. Vernon advanced to tonight’s championship game with a 29-25 victory.

“A lot of that is atmosphere. A lot of it was the game was so tight,” Mt. Vernon head coach Julie Shelton said of the contest that had, unofficially, 47 turnovers, 23 from the Marauders and 24 from the Arabians. “We, truly, don’t have a lot of ball-handlers and quickness and (Pendleton Heights) has more of that. Their pressure was really good. When they had that kind of pressure on us we got in too big of a hurry.

“I felt like both of us, offensively, the atmosphere really got to both of us. Both teams picked up the defensive pressure and it just came down to a couple of plays at the end of the game.”

Shelton said the biggest play was running an in-bounds play, “correctly” to get the ball to top scorer Ellery Minch.

The 6-foot-2 junior scored 14 of the Marauders 29 points, including two free throws, after being fouled after the in-bounds play, with just 6.9 seconds to go in the game. It closed out scoring and gave Mt. Vernon the win.

Minch, had missed a front-end of a one-and-bonus with 24 seconds to go with the Marauders up 27-25. Pendleton Heights rebounded and got the ball to its top scorer, Kaycie Warfel, who finished with 11 points. The sophomore guard drew a foul, but was unable to hit either free throw with 9.9 seconds remaining.

“We missed some shots that we would have normally hit in other situations. That could’ve been nerves,” Minch said of the Marauders’ performance. “For some of us, it was our first real sectional to play in and start and have a ton of minutes in. That could be it. I think it was the shots and we needed to be more calm with the ball against the press.”

Mt. Vernon scored six quick points to end the first quarter to take a 10-2 lead. Minch scored on a conventional three-point play to make it 7-2. Easton Wampler followed with a 3-pointer.

Pendleton Heights turned up the pressure and the Marauders committed 10 second-quarter turnovers. When Warfel scored on a lay up on No. 10, the Arabians had a 14-13 halftime lead.

At the half, Mt. Vernon had as many turnovers as points (13). Pendleton Heights was close, too, with 12.

In the fourth quarter, Mt. Vernon looked like it might start pulling away.

Minch hit a runner in the lane for a 25-21 lead with 3:45 to go. Kaitlyn Laffey hit a jumper for a 27-21 Mt. Vernon lead at the 3:04 mark.

Both teams were quiet offensively until Pendleton Heights senior Whitney Warfel, Kaycie’s older sister, banked in a 3-pointer with 1:30 to go to cut Mt. Vernon’s margin to 27-24. She later had a free throw at the 48.5 mark to cut it to two.

“Our game plan was to try to be able to turn them over and get out in transition before they could get set up in that matchup (zone),” Pendleton Heights coach Nick Rogers said. “Give Mt. Vernon credit. They were able to get back when we did turn them over and kind of wall up. We weren’t able to get out and get our transition game going like usual. Big props to coach Shelton and Mt. Vernon to do that.

“Same for us. We had a lot of turnovers, as well. That is something we have to do better. Their matchup zone is hard to play against. It comes down to you have to be able to make plays and we turned it over way too much.”

Mt. Vernon improved to 18-6 on the season. They had beaten Pendleton Heights 50-38 in a regular-season game at Pendleton Heights in December. The teams have been at the top of the Hoosier Heritage Conference standings the last two seasons. Mt. Vernon won the league this season. Pendleton Heights won it in 2021-22.

The Marauders have ended the Arabians’ season for the third straight year. In 2021, Mt. Vernon won 36-32 in a first-round tournament game. Last year, Mt. Vernon beat Pendleton Heights in the championship, 53-49.

“I’ve got to give coach Shelton credit,” Rogers, in his first season as the Arabians head coach, added. “She’s created a culture here of excellence and toughness and that’s what we’re searching and looking to get.”

Pendleton Heights finishes its season 15-10.

“To beat a team the caliber of Pendleton twice in one year, once for the conference that meant a lot and once for the sectional that means even more, is huge,” Shelton added on Friday’s win that put her team in the championship game. “I’m extremely proud of the team for keeping their composure and playing hard.”’

Mt. Vernon will take on Hancock County rival New Palestine (13-11), a winner over Anderson Friday, in tonight’s 7 p.m. championship contest. The Marauders are looking for their third straight sectional title.

Mt. Vernon 29 , Pendleton Heights 25

Mt. Vernon;10;3;8;8;—;29

Pendleton Heights;2;12;3;8;—;25

Mt. Vernon (18-6): Ellery Minch 5 4-6 14, Easton Wampler 1 0-0 3, Khloe Patterson 3 2-3 8, Kanyonrae Kenny 0 0-0 0, Kaitlyn Laffey 1 0-0 2, Reagan Britt 0 0-0 0, Sam Mrnak 1 0-0 2. Totals: 11 6-9 29.

Pendleton Heights (15-10): Whitney Warfel 2 2-4 7, Olivia Jones 1 0-0 2, Berkley Shelton 1 0-0 2, Kaycie Warfel 3 5-9 11, Skylar Baldwin 0 0-0 0, MaKayla Morrison 1 1-2 3. Totals: 8 8-15 25.

3-point goals: Mt. Vernon 1 (Wampler); Pendleton Heights 1 (W. Warfel)