MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon High School girls basketball team evened its record in the Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division on Friday night. The Yellow Jackets overcame an early deficit and held on to defeat the Olentangy Orange Pioneers, 61-53.
“I thought we played really hard tonight,” said Mount Vernon coach Doug Savage. “I think we played pretty good defense, except they knocked down eight 3s on us. ... From the three-point line, they almost looked like they were just throwing shots up, but they were going in. Up until now, we’ve defended the three-point line pretty strong. .... I’ve got to give Olentangy Orange some credit. They’ve improved a lot since we played them the first time. It is a credit to their kids for hanging in there tough.”
The game began with both team matching point-for-point. The Pioneers (5-10, 2-7 OCC) eventually opened up a six-point lead, 15-9, with a 7-2 spurt, but the Jackets (6-7, 4-4 OCC) closed with a pair of layups to make it 15-13 after one quarter.
A jumper by Mount Vernon’s Jhazmyn Anderson tied the game in the first minute of the second period, but Megan Walker hit her third 3-pointer of the game to put the Pioneers back on top. After an Orange free throw, Mount Vernon went on a 8-2 spurt to take a two-point lead, 23-21, but the Pioneers answered with four points of their own. A layup by Paige Wagner tied the game with under a minute to play, and a putback by Anderson sent Mount Vernon to the locker room with a 27-25 lead.
“We started to get the ball inside a little more consistently,” said Savage of his first half success. “When we started to do that, we started to click a little bit. ... Offensively, 27 points is not too bad. Defensively, they knocked down those 3s and that’s where they got most of their points.”
After a rough first half offensively, Mount Vernon came out of the halftime break looking to find a groove. The Jackets found it, thanks in part to their defense. They stepped up the pressure, often running a full-court press, and started to get some easy transition baskets.
Mount Vernon scored the first two buckets of the third quarter and rattled off a 15-2 run. Anderson had three more easy layups in that stretch, and a 3-pointer from Sadie Malone capped it with 2:57 to play.
“I just told the girls to keep constant pressure on the ball and every time someone gets ready to take a three-point shot, make sure it is a contested shot. I thought we were able to do that, which made a big difference,” said Savage.
Orange closed the gap to 10, 42-32, with five straight points, but Malone’s number was called again as the final seconds of the third quarter ticked down. She took a pass from Anderson and drained another 3 to make it 45-32 after three.
Despite being down by double digits, the Pioneers didn’t give up. After an opening bucket by Wagner, Orange went on a 9-2 run to make it an eight-points game, 49-41, with 4:46 left. Mount Vernon responded with a bucket from Caroline Caldwell and single free throws from Courtney Burke and Anderson. Caldwell’s bucket was the Jackets’ last of the game as they went to the free-throw line for their final 10 points. Orange tried to cut into the lead with 3s from Walker and Abby Davidson, but could never get closer than eight.
“This feels really good,” said Anderson. “We had a good second half. ... We wanted to pressure the guards more, and keep them from scoring.”
Anderson led the Jackets with 17 points. She also had five rebounds. DiGuilio went 10-of-12 from the charity stripe and finished with 12 points; Caldwell had nine points and 12 rebounds; and Malone finished with eight points and four steals. Wagner had six points, and Christine Herald had four points and eight rebounds.
Walker hit six 3s for Orange and finished with 20 points. Kelsey Lewis had nine points and nine rebounds, and Haley Mucha had eight points and nine rebounds.
“We are really starting to come together,” Anderson said. “We need to get some more wins so we can get a good draw for the tournament.”
In junior varsity play, Mount Vernon ran its record to 12-0 with a 37-25 victory. Burke led the way with 13 points. Jauni Gleason added seven points, and Macie Malone dropped in six points. Davidson had eight points for Orange.
Mount Vernon was scheduled to play Columbus East today, but that game has been canceled. The Jackets will return to action on Tuesday, traveling to Delaware to face the undefeated Pacers. That game begins at 6 p.m.
“It is going to be a challenge,” said Savage. “They are ranked seventh in the state. They have the two Matthews girls, and that’s where everything starts. They build their team from the inside out. They have some decent perimeter players as well. ... We’ll get a couple practices before we go over there and then see what we can do.”
NOTE: Mount Vernon has scheduled two additional games to replace those canceled this season. The Jackets will host Columbus Eastmoor on Monday, Feb. 2, and will host Dayton Belmont on Saturday, Feb. 7. The game against Eastmoor will begin at 6 p.m. The game against Belmont is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start.