WESTERVILLE — It took an overtime period, but the Mount Vernon High School girls basketball team successfully opened the 2008-09 postseason on Wednesday night. The Yellow Jackets, playing a Division I Central District sectional game at Westerville Central High School, overcame a slow start against Dublin Jerome and then hit the shots they needed to in overtime to beat the Celtics, 54-50.
Mount Vernon (11-10) had a strong shooting night, going 20-of-42 from the field. Its Achilles’ heel, however, was the free-throw line. The Jackets shot just 11-of-28 from the charity stripe and that is what allowed Dublin Jerome (11-10) to stay close at the end of the game.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity this year, but we’ve always seemed to be able to bounce back,” said Mount Vernon coach Doug Savage. “The kids are still playing hard, and that’s a credit to them. They’ve had a long season, a lot of practices and a lot of games. ... We always try to outwork and outhustle our opponent. It was two pretty evenly matched teams tonight. Overall, it was a good win for us.”
Mount Vernon had the chance to put the game away in the fourth quarter, taking the two-point lead, 46-44, on a 3-pointer from Sadie Malone and a free throw by Christine Herald. A missed free throw by Nikki DiGuilio, however, gave the Celtics the ball for the last possession and Julie Mooney hit a runner with six seconds left to tie the game and send it into overtime.
In overtime, Jhazmyn Anderson scored first on a jumper to put Mount Vernon on top, but missed free throws kept the Celtics close, and a putback by Jamelia Banks tied the game with 1:27 to play. The Jackets went into their four-to-score offense, attempting to eat off most of the remaining clock, and it worked for the most part.
DiGuilio scored a three-point play to give Mount Vernon the lead once again with 42.5 seconds to go, and then Jerome sent the Jackets to the line on three different occasions in the final 30 seconds. Mount Vernon hit 1-of-2 each time and held on for the 54-50 victory.
“Our four-to-score, I thought, was good,” said Savage. “We were calm and controlled the ball well. We were also able to get a couple of buckets off of it. You have to give credit to Mooney. She did what her team needed her to do. She hit the shot to tie it up. We just wanted to stay in the moment.”
A slow first quarter couldn’t hold the Yellow Jackets down. Mount Vernon didn’t score its first bucket until over five minutes into play and Dublin Jerome built a 13-3 lead. A jumper by Anderson and a putback by Courtney Burke helped close the game to six at the end of the quarter.
The Celtics scored first to open the second quarter, but a 12-3 run gave Mount Vernon its first lead of the game, 19-18, with 2:15 to go. Burke had four points in that stretch and Malone hit a 3. Jerome’s Brooke Carrel hit a 3-pointer with 1:24 to send her team into the locker room with a 23-21 lead.
“It was a slow start,” said Savage. “We had a pretty nice second quarter. Burke had a nice quarter. We were able to get the ball inside, and that was the key.”
Jerome led by as much as six in the third quarter, only to see that lead shrivel in the fourth quarter. Mount Vernon tied the game at 40 with 4:13 to play in regulation after a layup by Burke and the teams traded buckets leading to the finale.
“We were really excited to be in that situation because we didn’t start off very well,” said Anderson. “We picked it up as the game went on, and our defense played well.”
Four players scored in double figures for Mount Vernon, led by Anderson’s 14 points. She was 6-of-11 from the field, and added six rebounds, two steals and two blocks. DiGuilio had 11 points, four rebounds, two steals and seven assists; and Burke and Karina Shackle each had 10 points apiece. Shackle added a team-high seven boards.
Mooney and Banks each scored 15 points for Dublin Jerome, and Banks had 10 rebounds.
With the win, Mount Vernon advances to face the Pickerington Central Tigers in the second round. That game will be played on Wednesday at Hilliard Davidson High School at 6:15 p.m. The Tigers are a familiar foe as was Jerome. Both teams were members of the Ohio Capital Conference Cardinal Division the last two seasons with Mount Vernon. The Jackets switched to the Capital Division this season.
“Now we get a chance to play Pickerington Central, and we’ll be the underdog for sure,” said Savage. “That’s all right with us. We’ll just go out there, lay it on the line and see what we can do. We might be able to pull off an upset. You never know.”
“We are getting some momentum,” said Anderson. “It will be tough next week, but I know we can do it. ... We are going to have to work on our defense because we are going to have to double down on Emily Harmon. It should be a good game.”