Marauders want to build depth to continue their success

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FORTVILLE — With four starters returning from a team that won its third straight sectional and the Hoosier Heritage Conference title, Mt. Vernon’s girls basketball team has a lot of key parts in place to make another run at a strong season.

Mt. Vernon finished 19-7 last season and 7-0 in the HHC, but with the majority of its regulars back, the Marauders have a key player to replace if they want to be as good or better than last year’s team.

Senior Khloe Patterson led the team in rebounds (7.3) assists (3.8) and steals (2.5) and was third on the team in scoring (7.5). She was a strong defender, too, and did a lot of the little things that led to the championship season.

Head coach Julie Shelton, in her 23rd year as the Marauders head coach, said her team will have to find someone, or multiple players, to fill that void and develop some much-needed depth.

“Our biggest thing is trying to figure out who is going to be Khloe,” Shelton said. “Who’s going to get our steals and rebounds and be our energy on defense? It’s probably going to have to be a collective thing … We’ve got a lot of holes to fill that she did for us.”

The good news for Shelton is she has some veterans that know what it takes to win and have been key contributors during the team’s three-year run of sectional titles.

Leading the way is 6-3 senior forward/guard Ellery Minch. An Indiana Junior All-Star last year, Minch committed in the offseason to play in the Big East Conference at DePaul University. A year ago, she averaged a team-best 16.4 points per game to go with 5.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.8 assists.

“I’ve seen a lot of effort and want-to from all of the girls,” Minch said of her team’s early-season practices. “We know the process and that it takes time to get to where we want to be.”

Minch is one of five seniors, including two other returning starters in Easton Wampler (5-10) and Kaitlyn Laffey (5-6). Wampler, a three-sport standout and a starter since her sophomore season, averaged 6.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals last year. Laffey contributed 5.3 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists.

Aya Renforth (5-8) and Katelyn Hawkins (5-8) are two seniors that have been in the program for four years, but neither have played a lot at the varsity level.

The most experienced underclassman returnee is 5-8 junior guard Kanyonrae Kenny, who played point guard last year.

Kenny finished as the team’s second leading scorer, averaging 8.1 points along with 3.9 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 2.0 assists.

“It’s really nice having most people back, except for Khloe, she was the person that drove us to be successful,” Kenny said. “As a team we’re going to have to come together and be what she was for us.”

Junior Reagan Britt (5-6), who was first off the bench last year, is expected to take the other starting position and possibly add some of those things that Patterson did last season.

Shelton said she is also hopeful to get good minutes from junior Addison Bucksot (5-9) and sophomore Marissa Miner (5-5).

Having depth will be key this year. Last season, Britt was often the only sub used.

The veteran coach knows the lack of a deep bench hurt her team in a lot of their losses, including the regional game against a versatile and deep Ben Davis squad.

“Our four returning starters have to really step up their game from last year and we have to have depth,” Shelton said of team needs going into the year. “I have to be able to play eight or nine kids. Even (Wednesday) in our scrimmage, against Lawrence North, like Ben Davis, they are going to play 10 kids and press and be all over you. Five kids can’t maintain a whole game with that. In our scrimmage, we beat Lawrence North 9-7 in the first quarter, but that was 12 minutes and I didn’t sub and they played 10 kids.

“By the middle of the second quarter, they (were in control). That’s Ben Davis in the regional. (They) played 10 kids and we were done after 6-8 minutes with that kind of pace. Our depth has to, at least, not hurt us, and our four starters back from last year have to pick up their roles.”

Mt. Vernon opens the season at home Oct. 31 against Whiteland. The first conference game is Dec. 2, also at home, against Pendleton Heights.

2023-24 Mt. Vernon girls basketball schedule

Date;Opponent;Time

Oct. 31;vs. Whiteland;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 2;at Franklin;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 4;at Warren Central;6:30 p.m.

Nov. 9;at Bishop Chatard;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 11;vs. Richmond;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 14;vs. Westfield;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 17;vs. Rushville;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 25;at East Central;1:30 p.m.

Nov. 30;at Connersville;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 2;vs. Pendleton Heights;1:30 p.m.

Dec. 5;at Anderson;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 9;vs. Yorktown;10:30 a.m.

Dec. 12;at New Palestine;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 21;at Decatur Central;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 26;at Twin Lakes Invitational;3 p.m.

Dec. 27;at Twin Lakes Invitational;TBD

Jan. 9;at Noblesville;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 13;vs. Shelbyville;2:30 p.m.

Jan. 16;vs. Mooresville;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 19;at Greenfield-Central;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 23;vs. New Castle;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 25;vs. Delta;7:30 p.m.