MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets boys basketball team trailed 22-9 late in the second quarter before kicking it into overdrive and snagging a lead in the third quarter that it didn’t let go, beating Watkins Memorial Saturday, 58-52.
The Jackets started slow out of the gates. Carson Carpenter was the only Mount Vernon scorer in the first, netting four points. Marcus Peaks led the way for the Warriors with six points and at the end of the first, the Jackets were in a 12-4 hole.
“We were getting some pretty good dribble penetration,” Mount Vernon coach Nick Coon said. “We just weren’t finishing our plays with either a score or reading the situation and finding the open man in the first half. That led to some of our struggles.”
It was a quiet first quarter for Mount Vernon for many reasons, with a ‘silent night’ theme for the Hive, where they were silent until the Jackets scored their sixth point. Jontey Greene broke the silence with a bucket with 6:40 to go in the second. Mount Vernon found itself down 22-9 late in the second period, but the rally started and the Jackets cut the lead to 24-16 heading into the locker room.
The flurry of scoring continued into the third quarter. The lead was cut to two (26-24) with 4:42 to go in the third and Noah Gleason tied it up at 26 with a bucket in the fourth-minute of the quarter. Carpenter drained his second 3-pointer of the game off the feed from Greene and Connor Fisher splashed home his own three to cap off a 24-9 period for the Jackets and send the game to the fourth with the score at 32-29.
“I think our mindset of playing with force on the offensive end,” Coon said of the difference in the third quarter. “We did a much better job of finishing plays at the basket and that led to some kick-out open threes that we were able to knock down.”
The Jackets tacked on some more points to add distance, but four-straight freebies by the Warriors trimmed the lead to 50-46 with less than two minutes to go. A put-back bucket by Peaks cut the lead to three with a minute to go, but the Jackets hit their free throws down the stretch to put the game on ice and win.
“It was a pretty high-intensity situation there,” Coon said. “For the most part, we were able to keep our composure and step up and make some free throws. That’s what you have to do closing out close games like that.”
Greene scored nine in the fourth quarter and led the Jackets with 15 points in the game to go with seven boards, an assist and a steal. He hit 5 of 6 free throws in the fourth quarter and the one that was a miss was a violation that nullified his attempt.
“Just not listen to what they’re doing and keep playing our game,” Greene said of his ability to remain calm down the stretch. “I just focused on knocking down my free throws.”
Gleason did not score in the first half but he turned in 12 points for the Jackets by the end of the game and led the team with nine rebounds and a steal. Carpenter finished with 10 points and three rebounds. Evan Boatwright splashed home two deep shots on his way to collecting nine points and two boards. Fisher had two 3-pointers, three boards and two steals. Jaxon Snyder and Will Small combined for the final six points, and Snyder led the way with four dimes.
In a game that had 45 fouls between the two teams, the Jackets shot 14 of 24 (58 percent) at the stripe, but they did nail 10 of 14 in the fourth quarter. Watkins Memorial was 14 of 23 (61 percent) on free throws.
Peaks had a standout game in post, notching a double-double with game-highs in both points (22) and rebounds (10). Ethan Stearns had seven points, four boards, an assist, a steal and a block, while Bryce Small added another seven points and three rebounds. Reece McNeely notched two assists, two steals, three rebounds and four points. Justin Pidock and Asa Jessup had four points each.
The win brought the Jackets to 3-4 on the year. Mount Vernon returns home Thursday for a bout with Marion Harding, starting with freshmen at 3 p.m.
NOTE: Mount Vernon cruised to a win in the JV ranks, winning 53-24. Gary Rucker netted 15 points for Mount Vernon and Dayne Burgess and Beau Bridges each added nine. Dylan Banish had eight points to lead the Warriors. … Watkins Memorial held the edge in the freshmen contest, winning 46-45. Nolan Belcher for Mount Vernon and Brent Casterline each had 15 points.