PENDLETON — It wasn’t pretty, but in the early portion of the season, and down two starters on the road, the Mt. Vernon boys basketball team will take the win.

On Friday night, the Marauders outlasted Pendleton Heights 44-42 to open up Hoosier Heritage Conference play. With sophomore Luke Ertel still out with an injury suffered during football season, Mt. Vernon was also without junior starter Tanner Teschendorf due to a concussion suffered earlier in the week.

“We found a way to just gut out a win when we didn’t play well,” Mt. Vernon head coach Joe Bradburn said. “Credit to Pendleton, they were very organized and they know who they are and what they’re doing. They made us have to fight to earn this one.”

The game, for both teams, was a tale of two halves.

Mt. Vernon was limited to 18 first-half points, while Pendleton Heights was held to 12, and each team scored single-digit points in the opening quarter.

In the second half, the Marauders scored 26, while the Arabians scored 30.

A Brady Fitzgerald 3-pointer and Elijah Parra layup for Mt. Vernon bested three Josiah Gustin points for the Arabians in the opening quarter.

After a pair of Cooper Sims free throws for the Arabians tied things at 5-5 early in the second quarter, Fitzgerald and Parra knocked down treys to push the Mt. Vernon lead to 11-5.

Julien Smith scored the last seven points of the half for Mt. Vernon to keep them ahead 18-12 at the break.

“We know that we have a lot to learn on timing and rhythm. There’s a lot that we’re trying to iron out from an offensive standpoint still,” Bradburn said. “They’re listening though, and the signs are all there, so I’m excited to see a month from now what our offense is.”

In a 17-point third quarter for Pendleton Heights, there were eight lead changes.

A Gustin layup put the Arabians ahead 21-20 for the first time since 2-0, but each time one team scored, the other answered.

A Parra 3-pointer put the Marauders back ahead for a few moments, before a Seth LaRavia basket and free throw flipped the lead back to the Arabians side.

Fitzgerald’s third deep ball of the game put Mt. Vernon back ahead for good entering the fourth quarter, and another Parra 3 made things 34-29 early in the quarter.

On the night, Parra knocked down four 3-pointers, and Fitzgerald added three. As a team, the Marauders were 8-for-17 from deep and scored over half of their points from beyond the 3-point line.

“We’re a good shooting team. That’s one of our strengths. We can even shoot better than we did tonight,” Bradburn said. “Right now we’re trying to find different options that we have in our offense. Today, kids love to fall in love with the 3, but we’re still trying to work an inside-out game, and some of the shots we got tonight were because of us moving the ball in and out. We continue to harp on that.”

The Mt. Vernon lead got as big as seven late in the fourth after a pair of Aden Daugherty free throws, but the Arabians hung around.

A Gustin 3-point play cut things to 42-39 with just over a minute to play, and an Evan Mozingo 3-pointer off of a Mt. Vernon turnover trimmed the lead to just two with 15 seconds remaining.

Two missed free throws by the Marauders gave the Arabians the chance for the win, but Mozingo’s attempt from deep at the buzzer hit the back of the iron.

“I’ve got some gritty guys. They fight. Defensively we’re getting better and better, and that’s what we’ve been preaching early in the season. We want to set the tone with our defense and aggression,” Bradburn said. “Our guys have bought in and they’re competing and fighting and it’s giving us a chance when we have an off night offensively. That’s what happened tonight.”

Parra led Mt. Vernon with 17 points, Fitzgerald added nine, and Smith had seven points and six rebounds. Daugherty added six points and led the Marauders with seven rebounds.

The Arabians were led by Gustin’s 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Mt. Vernon will continue HHC play next Friday when they host Shelbyville at 7:30 p.m.

Mt. Vernon 44, Pendleton Heights 42

Mt. Vernon;5;13;13;13;—;44

Pendleton Heights;3;9;17;13;—42

Mt. Vernon (2-2, 1-0): Julien Smith 3 2-2 9, R’Mani Wells 0 0-2 0, Elijah Parra 5 3-5 17, Aden Daugherty 1 4-4 6, Brady Fitzgerald 3 0-2 9, Tyler Davis 1 0-0 2, Ryker Baer 0 1-2 1, Charlie Cross 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 10-17 44.

Pendleton Heights (1-4, 0-1): Josiah Gustin 6 6-7 18, Evan Mozingo 2 0-0 6, Seth LaRavia 2 1-1 6, Isaac Wilson 0 0-0 0, Dontrez Braxton 0 0-0 0, Aaron Cookston 2 0-2 4, Cooper Sims 2 2-2 8, Reese Caplinger 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 9-12 42.

3-point goals: Mt. Vernon 8 (Parra 4, Fitzgerald 3, Smith). Pendleton Heights 5 (Sims 2, Mozingo 2, LaRavia).