MOUNT VERNON — Basketball is a team sport, and that fact was evident Friday night at “The Hive.”
The Mount Vernon High School varsity boys, playing without post Joe Scott, showed how good of a team they can be when all five players on the court contribute. The Yellow Jackets shot 60 percent from the field (24-of-40) and limited the Watkins Memorial Warriors to 27.8 percent (10-of-36) in a 66-29 Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division rout. Mount Vernon had 20 assists in the contest as well.
“A big part of (our shooting percentage) is because we are shooting good shots,” said Mount Vernon coach Kurt Kaufman. “We are getting the ball inside and kicking it out, or we are getting it inside and letting our post guys go to work. A lot of our success tonight was because we were taking good shots and distributing the basketball.”
With the win, Mount Vernon takes over the top spot of the Capital Division. The Olentangy Orange Pioneers, who were a half-game ahead of the Jackets when the night started, fell to Franklin Heights, 50-45, on Friday night.
“This was another step in the conference for us,” said Senior guard Ben Severns. “We control our own destiny right now, so this was another big win for us.”
Severns shot 6-of-9 from the field, including three first-quarter 3-pointers, to lead the way with 17 points. Sophomore Charlie Phillips, making his first career start in place of Scott, went 5-of-7 from the field to chip in 14 points and four assists of his own. Scott missed the game due to a sprained ankle he suffered Monday in practice.
“Our team this year is awesome,” Severns said. “We all have different skills and we can all bring something different to the table. Losing Joe is definitely something that is not good, but Charlie was able to step up. He had a really nice night for us.”
“Charlie is a great athlete. He’s a focused kid that works hard,” said Kaufman. “He is reaping the fruits of his labor. We are a team and, whoever is on the floor, the expectations are the same. We are going to keep doing what we practice every day, and I think you saw that tonight.”
The Jackets (12-4, 7-2 OCC) came out of the locker room on fire, and the Warriors (1-13, 0-10) couldn’t keep pace. Severns opened the game with a 3-pointer off an assist from Cuy Sheffield (eight points, seven assists) and added another a minute later off an assist from Phillips. The lead grew to nine at the six-minute mark after a three-point play from Steven Bien.
“Really, we just tried to come in and not overlook this team,” said Phillips. “We wanted to get the ball inside and work it inside-out. When we do that, the shots usually fall like they did tonight.”
Watkins Memorial never did find the net in the first quarter, going 0-of-6 from the field. Mount Vernon added buckets by Russell Doup and Ben Hoar, and finished the scoring with another 3 by Severns to take a 16-0 lead.
“I felt pretty good, but I knew I had to stay within our offense,” said Severns of his first-quarter 3s. “I couldn’t force anything.”
The Warriors finally got on the board at the start of the second quarter after Clayton Nixon laid a shot in, but Mount Vernon responded with an 11-3 run to take a 22-point advantage. Hoar had five points and Phillips added four in that stretch. Watkins Memorial got a a pair of 3-pointers to offset six Mount Vernon free throws in the final three minutes, but a layin by Bien (nine points) with two seconds left put the Jackets up, 35-11, at the break.
“Our guys came out intense and did everything we asked,” said Kaufman. “Again, you didn’t see anybody dunking the basketball or anything like that. They did what we asked them to do, and they are getting better.”
With a huge lead, it would have been easy for Mount Vernon to set back and relax in the second half. The Jackets, however, did anything but. They opened the third quarter by scoring 13 points in the first four minutes while holding the Warriors off the board. Phillips hit a pair of shots, as did Sheffield, to help put Mount Vernon up, 48-11.
“You always have to play; you can never let down,” said Kaufman. “We challenged our guys to come out in the second half with the same aggressiveness we started with. ... A big part of that run was because we took good shots and played hard defensively. We didn’t let down, and that’s good.”
Corey Weisenstein hit a 3-pointer to slow the Jacket’ run, which continued as Bien, Severns and Sheffield added back-to-back-to-back buckets. Daylen Stewart added another 3-pointer for Watkins Memorial, but a free throw by Doup (five rebounds, two steals) made it a 55-17 game after three.
Phillips hit his second 3-pointer of the night with 6:40 to go, and was the last Jacket starter to score. The Warriors managed to win the final quarter, 12-11, after finding a little success against the Jacket bench. Hoar (nine points) finished off the Mount Vernon scoring with a layin at the 1:16 mark.
“(Shooting well) has really given us a lot of confidence,” Severns said. “Over the last week, the shots we are getting are awesome. It seems like they are all falling. Coach has really been harping on us to get it into the post, and it is helping us get some open shots. Our posts have been doing great all season.”
Tad Glibert added three steals and four assists for Mount Vernon, and Andre Nixon picked up three steals. The Jackets also went 12-of-16 at the free-throw line.
“It was good to get some guys some experience,” Kaufman said. “That is going to pay off.”
Stewart scored nine points to lead Watkins Memorial, and Nixon had six points and eight rebounds. Tyler Arnott added three rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Mount Vernon has another big game tonight at “The Hive.” The Delaware Pacers come to town for a makeup game, which tips off at 6 p.m.
“It is going to be really important because it is another league game,” said Severns. “We need to win game to stay ahead in the league. Hopefully, Olentangy (Orange) loses again and we can keep it going. It is definitely a big game because of our rivalry. Hopefully, people will come out and support us.”
“We still have some things to work on,” Phillips said. “(Tonight’s game) will be tough, especially if Joe is out because they have a big guy. We are really going to have to rely on Bien, and all of the other guys are going to have to step up.”
In junior varsity action, Mount Vernon stayed on the winning track, defeating Watkins Memorial, 52-32. The Jackets (16-0) got 14 points from Ethan Abell and 13 more from T.T. Crouch. Kenny Rucker added seven points, and Daniel Martin and Chris Ingersol each scored six points.