MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon High School girls basketball team took care of the business at hand on Saturday afternoon. The Yellow Jackets faced an athletic visiting Dayton Belmont squad and came out dominating a 51-39 victory.
“It wasn’t always pretty; it got a little ragged a few times, but in the long run, we did a nice job,” said Mount Vernon head coach Doug Savage. “Their girls played hard; they wanted to win too, so they were competing and trying to win the game. Normally, we don’t get outcompeted in games. We worked really hard today.”
The Jackets (9-8) started out in a battle as both teams exchanged baskets and neither was able to grab a true advantage. Both teams fought hard in the first half, but a last-second basket by the Jackets going into the half proved to be the momentum shift the team needed. They took a 24-16 lead into halftime and never let Dayton Belmont back within seven points for the rest of the contest.
Belmont did its best to try to crawl back into the contest in the third quarter with the play of its speedy guards and, at the end of three, the game was still not out of reach with the Jackets holding onto a nine point lead, 40-31. The fourth quarter saw the Jackets come alive and put the game out of reach.
“We started out slow and I was a little worried at first,” said Mount Vernon guard Nikki DiGuilio. “In our huddle, coach had a lot of positive words and we just seemed to turn it on. The game started to come to us instead of us forcing it. The wins really help the confidence of the team.”
To start the fourth quarter, Savage had his team play a zone defense to put an end to the penetration of Belmont’s guards and slow the pace of the game down. It worked to perfection as Dayton Belmont scored only eight points in the quarter, and the Jackets moved into a comfortable leading position.
“They had two nice guards that penetrated real well,” said Savage. “That bothered us for a while, especially in the first half. We went to our zone defense at the end of the third quarter to stop that penetration. They started to shoot it more from the outside and really didn’t connect much and we were able to pull away.”
The Jackets got a huge game from DiGuilio that allowed them to pull away and grab the victory. DiGuilio led all scorers with 22 points and was deadly from beyond the arc and the foul line.
“It’s nice to see Nikki get some points like that,” Savage said. “We like to promote a team type of offense normally, but today, Nikki got free and knocked down some big shots. She was hitting her free throws and gave us some much-needed points.”
Christine Herald added eight points and Sam Arcilla had six points.
The hard times are ahead for the Jackets as they close the season, playing three games in five days. They will play games tonight — against Eastmoor — and Tuesday night at Marion Harding in a very tough stretch for the team.
“The girls are hanging in there,” said Savage. “Basketball is a long season. They have practiced a lot and played a lot of games. We are trying to keep them as fresh as possible. There is no rest for the weary.”
In junior varsity action, Mount Vernon remained undefeated on the season as it moved its record to 16-0 with a thrashing of Dayton Belmont, 58-12. Jauni Gleason led the Jackets with 14 points. Victoria Queen added 13 points and Macie Malone and Keli Thompson each added eight points.
Tonight’s home game against Eastmoor begins at 6 p.m.