FORTVILLE — A Saturday afternoon matchup in December took on the appearance of a first week in February sectional showdown.

Pendleton Heights and Mt. Vernon girls basketball teams met at Mt. Vernon High School in a battle of Hoosier Heritage Conference and Class 4A Sectional 9 rivals.

Mt. Vernon had beaten Pendleton Heights three straight times and ended the Arabians season in each of the last three sectional tournaments. In 2022, the Marauders avenged a regular-season loss to the conference-champion Arabians in the sectional title game.

On Saturday, the Arabians got a little revenge with a 44-39 win.

Helping force 34 Mt. Vernon turnovers, Pendleton Heights got the last of seven lead changes —all coming in the game’s final 17 minutes — with 6:42 left in the fourth quarter.

It was a typical PH-MV rivalry game. There was a lot of defense, fouls and turnovers. Buckets were all well-earned.

“It’s one of those things, you know when you’re going to play a Julie Shelton-coached team, buckets are going to be hard to come by,” Pendleton Heights coach Nick Rogers said. “For somebody like us, having a great slasher like Kaycie (Warfel), we knew they’re going shell off that lane.

“We didn’t shoot it extremely well from 3. We didn’t shoot a lot of them. If we can’t have kids be threats on the 3-point line that’s going to force people like Kaycie and (6-3 freshman) Adah (Hupfer) to have a lot of hard work on their hands.”

There were 54, unofficial, combined turnovers – Pendleton Heights had 20, including 12 in the second half — and 38 fouls (20 Pendleton Heights, 18 Mt. Vernon). Neither team shot it well at the free-throw line, continuing leaving the door open for the other team.

Pendleton Heights shot 56 percent (14 of 25) from the stripe. Mt. Vernon hit just 50 percent (8 of 16) of its freebies.

“Missed free throws and turnovers,” Shelton said of the reasons for her team’s loss. “Nobody wants the ball when it gets tight. We’ll keep working on it and hopefully we’ll have another shot (against Pendleton Heights). We’ve lost a couple of games because of free throws and turnovers (this season).

“We’ve had good chances to build leads with free throws (in other games, too). We’ll keep working in the turnover and free throw areas. I thought, defensively, especially in the first half, we were better than we have been.”

A pair of Ellery Minch treys got Mt. Vernon out to a quick 6-0 lead. There were only six more points scored the remainder of the first quarter, all by Pendleton Heights.

Late in the second quarter, Pendleton Heights took its first lead after a 6-0 run. Warfel, who led Arabian scorers with 22, scored off a steal to cut Mt. Vernon’s lead to 16-13.

On Pendleton’s next possession, Warfel scored on a strong drive to the basket.

Another steal and bucket, this one from senior sub Skylar Baldwin, gave the Arabians a 17-16 lead with 57 seconds remaining in the first half. It was the first of seven lead changes.

There were three lead changes in the third quarter, too.

Minch scored the final four points of the period to give Mt. Vernon a 32-29 advantage. The DePaul signee had 24 of her team’s 39 points. She hit five 3-point field goals.

Pendleton Heights’ junior guard Emma Roberts hit a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter to tie the game 32-32 with 7:10 to go. In transition off a rebound, Warfel scored on a layup to give Pendleton Heights the lead 34-32 with 6:42 remaining.

A deep 3 from Minch cut the Arabians lead to 37-35 with 5:30 to go. A free throw from Mt. Vernon’s Kanyonrae Kenny made it 37-36 with 4:21 remaining, but Pendleton Heights answered with the next seven points.

Pendleton Heights improved to 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the HHC. Mt. Vernon is 3-6 and 0-1 in the conference.

Mt. Vernon had won 13 straight HHC games coming in, last losing to Pendleton Heights in the 2021-22 season.

“We talked to the girls all week to tune out the noise,” Rogers said. “‘Pendleton’s 6-1 and Mt. Vernon’s down, we’re going to kill ‘em.’ I said, ‘Ladies, it doesn’t work like that.’ Whenever you line up ladies in Mt. Vernon uniforms against ladies in Pendleton Heights uniforms, it’s going to be electric. It’s going to be intense. You’re going to get their best shot and we’ve got to have our best.”

“The last 3 or 4 years we know, unless something crazy happens, it’s going to be them or us that wins the sectional and the conference,” Shelton added on the intense rivalry between the two programs.

Pendleton Heights 44, Mt. Vernon 39

Pendleton Heights;6;13;10;15;—;44

Mt. Vernon;6;12;14;7;—;39

Pendleton Heights (7-1, 4-0): Olivia Jones 0 4-6 4, Makayla Morrison 1 0-0 2, Adah Hupfer 1 1-4 3, Kaycie Warfel 8 6-11 22, Emma Roberts 2 1-2 7, Skylar Baldwin 2 2-2 6, Mamie Trout 0 0-0 0, Brea Perry 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 14-25 44.

Mt. Vernon (3-6, 0-1): Reagan Britt 1 0-0 3, Easton Wampler 1 0-3 3, Ellery Minch 7 5-7 24, Kaitlyn Laffey 0 1-2 1, Kanyonrae Kenny 0 2-4 2, Addison Bucksot 2 0-0 4, Marissa Miner 1 0-0 2. Totals: 12 8-16 39.

3-point goals: Pendleton Heights 2 (Roberts 2), Mt. Vernon 7 (Minch 5, Britt, Wampler)