DAILY JOURNAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
With no player taller than 6-foot-4 on its varsity roster, Mt. Vernon’s boys basketball team knows it’s going to have to attack the glass every night.
In the Marauders’ season-opener at Whiteland, which started 6-7 Michael Valle’ and 6-5 Tom Purdie, the visitors didn’t just attack the boards. They dominated them.
Mt. Vernon more than doubled the host Warriors’ rebounding total (31-15), leading to several second-chance baskets and longer possessions. The Marauders combined that with sizzling field-goal shooting to claim a 71-47 road victory.
The Marauders shot 67.4 percent from the floor (29 of 43) and 66.7 percent from 3-point range (10 of 15) en route to its fifth straight victory against Whiteland. The Warriors, meanwhile, shot 39.6 percent (21 of 53) from the floor and 4 of 19 from 3-point land (21.1 percent).
That said, Mt. Vernon coach Travis Daugherty credited the defense with the victory. Its aggressive, collapsing man-to-man defense kept Whiteland out of the paint for most of the game and often forced contested, fadeaway jumpers.
“We weren’t perfect, but we did have two or three really good stretches that allowed us to get out and extend the lead,” Daugherty said. “Our offense all starts with ball movement, and we moved the ball exceptionally well.
“We were really unselfish.”
Indeed, all five Marauder starters scored before the end of the first quarter. Guard Michael Ertel led the way, hitting 8 of 10 from the floor and 5 of 6 from 3-point range to lead everyone with 23 points. Michael Thompson added 19 points and a game-high nine rebounds for Mt. Vernon, while teammate Erick Shepherd collected 13 points and seven boards. James McCloud chipped in eight points.
Purdie led Whiteland with 14 points, followed by Vallé (10) and Terré Moss (eight). Aaron Gross (five rebounds) and Purdie (four) were the only Warriors with four or more rebounds.
“We didn’t do a good enough job taking away Ertel’s drive,” Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth said. “That caused us to collapse more, which started to open things up on the outside. This game is a measuring stick for us.
“We have a lot of potential, but we’ve got to go out and prove that we’re a good basketball team.”
Whiteland trailed 32-26 with 1:32 left in the first half after Purdie converted a layup off a Mt. Vernon turnover, but the Marauders scored the half’s last four points to take a 36-26 halftime edge. Then, they outscored the Warriors 10-2 to start the second half, building a 46-28 lead with 5:02 remaining in the third quarter. Whiteland never drew closer than 16 after that.
“This group’s been through a lot, and not all of it has been pretty,” Daugherty said of the Marauders. “This was evidence of our growth, and hopefully it continues.”
Mt. Vernon plays Hamilton Heights on Saturday at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Whiteland is off until Dec. 4, when it travels to Mid-State Conference rival Plainfield.