MUNCIE — Mt. Vernon has won two straight sectional championships and now will play for a third.
Adam Hackett is a senior on the team, but he’s not been a big part of the last two.
He’s making up for lost time.
Hackett, who missed all of last season after breaking his leg, was the spark for the second straight tournament game as the Marauders knocked off No. 17 Anderson, 58-57, to advance to tonight’s 7 p.m. championship game against rival New Palestine.
The 6-foot-6 Hackett scored a team-high 18 points, hitting 8 of 9 field-goal tries, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range.
He scored on a layup with 38 seconds to go, on a pass from sophomore Tanner Teschendorf, to give Mt. Vernon a 58-57 lead. He had eight fourth-quarter points, including the Marauders last four.
Anderson had a chance to tie or go ahead in the final seconds. Senior Ja’Quan Ingram was at the free-throw line with 5.4 seconds remaining. He missed both free throw attempts and the Indians missed on a couple of putback tries as time ran out.
“Every day I think about (that leg injury),” Hackett said. “Nothing is guaranteed. It could all be taken away just like that.”
Hackett said he’s not letting this opportunity slide by. A starter at the beginning of the year, he’s come off the bench to score 31 points in two tournament games.
“That kid’s the definition of grit. He came in as a freshman and was 6-foot-tall,” Mt. Vernon senior Eli Bridenthal said. “Over (the COVID pandemic), he came back 6-5, 6-6. He wasn’t the best skilled player either. He’s worked every single day before practice and after practice. He’s now the definition of a senior leader and hard-worker. It showed tonight.”
With missing last year, Hackett fits in well with this year’s Marauders. It’s filled with new faces. Three freshmen and a sophomore start with the lone veteran, Bridenthal.
They’re a group of new kids on the block just doing what Marauders do.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Bridenthal said of his team’s 16-8 season and the opportunity to play for a sectional title again. “I don’t think anyone on our team is surprised. This should be the standard of Mt. Vernon basketball, to be in the sectional championship, at least, and hopefully win it every single year.”
Bridenthal hit some big shots Friday, too. He had a pair of 3s and was the team’s second leading scorer with 14 points.
His fourth-quarter trey followed a Hackett game-tying 3, to give the Marauders a 54-51 lead with 3:51 to go.
“He’s fearless for a guy that has this year for varsity experience, and that’s it,” interim head coach Nate Bingham added on Hackett. “He’s a ball player and he wants the ball in his hands in big moments and he’s ready to make plays.”
Freshmen starting guards Julien Smith and Luke Ertel combined for 18 points. Smith joined the seniors in double digits with 11.
Smith and Ertel had to do most of the ball-handling against Anderson’s aggressive trapping defense. They made some turnovers, but played like senior veterans.
“This is a special group,” Bingham said. “Adverse times, they’ve showed real character. These guys have done a really great job coming together the last week and a half. I’m really proud of them. … They play (older) than they really are and have a ton of confidence, as they should.
“There were a couple times I thought we were alright (Friday), and there were times I was really concerned. It’s the game of basketball. It’s sectional time and games are crazy. Our guys really stood up for the challenge. It would have been easy for them to back down. They accepted the challenge.”
Mt. Vernon 58 , Anderson 57
Mt. Vernon (16-8): Eli Bridenthal 5 2-2 14, Tanner Teschendorf 1 2-2 4, R’mani Wells 0 2-2 2, Julien Smith 4 2-2 11, Luke Ertel 2 2-2 7, Adam Hackett 7 0-0 18, Conner Schank 1 0-0 2 , Brady Fitzgerald 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 10-10 58.
Anderson (20-5): Damien King 6 3-6 17, Ja’Quan Ingram 5 3-8 13, Jayden Murphy 1 0-0 2, Alex Troutman 0 0-0 0, Ahmere Carson 7 7-9 23, Louis Jackson 1 0-0 2, Javon Warfield 0 0-0 0, Latrell White 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 13-23 57.
3-point goals: Mt. Vernon 8 (Hackett 4, Bridenthal 2, Ertel, Smith); Anderson 4 (King 2, Carson 2)