“The job’s not finished,” Mt. Vernon senior Eli Bridenthal said after his team’s 62-32 opening round win over Muncie Central Wednesday.
Bridenthal said it, but the words could be attributed to anyone from the four remaining Hancock County teams participating in the IHSAA postseason.
Boys basketball teams from Mt. Vernon, New Palestine and Eastern Hancock and the New Palestine gymnastics team all have plans to advance and continue competing in their respective tournaments.
Tonight, all will have their seasons on the line.
Mt. Vernon (15-8) is the two-time defending champions in Class 4A Sectional 9. The Marauders take on No. 17 Anderson (20-4), in one of two semifinal boys’ basketball tournament games at Muncie Fieldhouse.
The Marauders and Indians did not meet in the regular season, but did play in a semifinal matchup in last year’s sectional. Mt. Vernon won 82-76. The semifinal rematch is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.
In Wednesday’s tournament opener, the Marauders had their top defensive performance of the season, giving up a season-low 32 points.
“Everybody focused on the defensive game plan and they followed it to a T,” Mt. Vernon interim head coach Nate Bingham said following Wednesday’s win. “We talked about all week we wanted our defense to fuel our offense. We definitely did that tonight.”
Freshman Luke Ertel led the scoring in Wednesday’s win with 16 points. Adam Hackett, a senior, came off the bench to score 13 points. Bridenthal had 11.
In a 55-48 win over No. 11 Greenfield-Central Wednesday, Anderson was led by the 20 points of Ja’Quan Ingram.
The Mt. Vernon-Anderson game will follow the first semi-final between No. 14 New Palestine (21-2) and Pendleton Heights (8-16).
The Dragons are the lone winter sports team yet to begin postseason play. They’ll get their first crack tonight at 6 p.m. at the historic fieldhouse. They beat the Arabians in the regular season, 58-41 in a game that had just a one-point difference with one minute remaining in the third quarter.
Pendleton Heights won its tournament opener by beating Richmond Tuesday.
The Dragons, in their final regular season game against Greenwood, tied the school record for wins in a season with 21.
“Every year the sectional rolls around, it’s a second chance, a second season, throw out the records, all that good stuff,” New Palestine coach Trent Whitaker said. “Our kids are excited.”
New Palestine is led by seniors Blaine Nunnally and Ian Stephens, averaging 17.6 points and 15.9 points, respectively.
In a 62-58 win over Richmond, Pendleton Heights was led by junior Josiah Gustin with 24 points.
At Eastern Hancock, in Class 2A Sectional 42, the Royals are looking to make a long tournament run for the second straight season.
Last season, the Royals won sectional and regional titles before losing to Clarksville Providence in the semi-state, just one win away from making it to the Class 2A state championship game.
Eastern Hancock (20-6) takes on Indianapolis Scecina (15-6) in the second of two semifinal games in Charlottesville. Triton Central (16-6) takes on Indianapolis Riverside (9-10) in the 6 p.m. opener.
Of the remaining teams in Sectional 42, the Royals are the only one that has played a tournament game. The five-team sectional opened Tuesday with the Royals easily beating Irvington Prep Academy 75-25.
“Our goal (Tuesday) was not just to win the game, but to win it with good momentum heading into the weekend,” Eastern Hancock coach Aaron Spaulding said following the victory over the Ravens. “We’ll have a good opponent (tonight) and if we’re fortunate enough to win (tonight) we’ll have a good opponent Saturday. We’re not going to have any more of those (50-point wins). It’s not going to be easy from here on out.”
Coach Spaulding was led by his twin sons Jacob and Silas in the win Tuesday, the 300th of his coaching career. Jacob Spaulding scored 19 points and Silas Spaulding added 18. Two others scored in double figures with Edric Miller scoring 15 and Grant Gray adding 11.
Scecina is led by 6-foot-1 senior guard Keaton Thibo, a two-time all-conference player.
Off the court, but still in the gym, New Palestine’s gymnastics team will compete at the Franklin Central Regional in search of a spot in next week’s state finals.
The Dragons went 17-1 in dual meets and followed up with a championship in last Saturday’s Connersville Sectional, the program’s first sectional title since 2017.
While the basketball teams are working to get to sectional championship games, the gymnasts are looking for spots in the IHSAA Gymnastics State Finals, which will be in Muncie at Ball State’s Worthen Arena on March 11.
The top three teams and top six individuals in each event advance to the state finals. The Dragons are one of six teams in tonight’s regional taking place at The Gymnastics Company.
New Palestine joins New Castle and Rushville, second and third place teams, respectively, from the Connersville Sectional and the top three teams from the Franklin Central Sectional, No. 10 Bloomington North, No. 6 Columbus North – the only team to beat New Palestine during the dual season – and Bloomington South.
The Dragons are coming off a season-high score of 103.425. Bloomington North won the Franklin Central Sectional with a score of 107.375. Columbus North scored 106.8 and Bloomington South had 101.850.
The Dragons had four champions at the Connersville tournament. Sophomore JJ Fee won the balance beam (9.525) and floor exercise (9.525). Senior Addyson Kendall won uneven bars (8.300) and frosh Lynzie Stiller was the all-around champion (34.3).
Tonight’s postseason schedule
Class 2A Sectional 42
At Eastern Hancock High School
6 p.m. – Triton Central (16-6) vs. Indianapolis Riverside (9-10)
7:30 p.m. – Eastern Hancock (19-6) vs. Indianapolis Scecina (15-6)
Class 4A Sectional 9
At Muncie Fieldhouse (Muncie Central)
6 p.m. – New Palestine (21-2) vs. Pendleton Heights (8-16)
7:30 p.m. – Mt. Vernon (15-8) vs. Anderson (20-4)
Franklin Central Gymnastics Regional
At The Gymnastics Company, Indianapolis
6:30 p.m. – New Palestine, New Castle, Rushville, Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Columbus North (Top 3 teams advance to state meet)