MOUNT VERNON — A slow start by the Mount Vernon High School boys basketball team coupled with an Olentangy Orange overtime victory at Delaware cost the Yellow Jackets the Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division title on Friday night.
Hosting the New Albany Eagles at “The Hive,” the Jackets made a valiant second half comeback, but couldn’t stop the Eagles when it mattered. New Albany went 8-of-8 from the free-throw line in the final minute to ice a 54-47 upset of the Jackets (14-6, 8-4 OCC Capital).
Olentangy Orange (15-5, 9-3 OCC Capital), which jumped out to a big first-quarter lead, had to fight off a Delaware (12-8, 6-6 OCC Capital) comeback. The game went to overtime, and the Pioneers held on to win 50-46, giving them the OCC Capital title. The Pioneers and Jackets were tied entering the night.
“This is tough,” said Mount Vernon coach Kurt Kaufman. “You can’t judge this team on this last game. It was a letdown in terms of not winning, but our guys battled. Our guys improved. (New Albany) is a good team, and they proved it.”
New Albany (10-10, 5-7 OCC Capital) won the opening tip, but Mount Vernon scored first in the game. Joe Scott hit a pair of free throws less than 30 seconds in to get the Jackets on the board, but they still struggled to make a basket. In fact, Mount Vernon didn’t find the hoop until nearly seven minutes in, while the Eagles scored three straight. Ben Hoar scored a pair of layins in the final 1:06 of play to keep Mount Vernon close after one quarter, 8-6.
“Both teams slow the ball down, and we expected it to be a low-scoring game,” Kaufman said. “The shots just weren’t dropping for us tonight, shots that normally do. With that being said, our guys still fought hard.”
A pair of 3-pointers helped New Albany extend its lead to 16-10 within the first two minutes of the second quarter, but Mount Vernon responded with a 9-3 run to tie the game at 19 with 2:08 to play. The Eagles scored the last bucket of the quarter with 1:43 left, and went into the locker room with a 21-19 lead.
The third quarter belonged to senior Ben Severns and the Yellow Jackets. After falling behind four on an opening New Albany bucket, Mount Vernon went on an 8-3 run to take its first lead of the game, 27-26. Severns, who had been scoreless in the first half, scored a rare four-point play to give his team the lead with 5:32 on the clock.
Chase Sutton responded with a 3 for New Albany, but a 7-2 spurt by the Jackets gave them a four-point lead, 34-31, with 1:40 to go. Severns added another 3 in the run and had nine points in the quarter total. Ryan Mayle hit a jumper with one second left to cut the lead to one heading into the fourth quarter.
“We wanted to be the team to go inside and draw some fouls in there,” Kaufman said. “We just needed to get some stops. We struggled to get stops tonight, especially when we needed them. They were pretty efficient offensively.”
Continuing where they left off, the Eagles went on a 11-4 run in the first 3:10 of the fourth quarter. A jumper by Peter Kobelt capped the run and gave New Albany a 44-38 advantage. Mount Vernon cut the lead to four on a layin by senior Stephen Bien and then three after another 3-pointer by Severns, but that was as close as the Jackets got. New Albany went 10-of-12 from the foul line down the stretch, including the final eight in a row.
“We had a chance, but give them credit,” said Kaufman. “They were able to get the ball in and were able to make their foul shots. Down the stretch, they made their foul shots. They are a good team. It is no secret they’ve lost a lot of tough games.
“There is a lot of parity (in our conference) and that’s good. It makes us better. Every possession matters. This can only help us as we try to move on and win ballgames.”
Sutton led New Albany with 13 points and three assists, and had six rebounds. Scott McDonald was perfect from the floor, going 4-of-4 from the field and 4-4 at the free-throw line to finish with 12 points. He also had seven rebounds and three assists; and Sam Krebs had 11 points.
Severns and Hoar each scored 12 points to lead Mount Vernon. Russell Doup had eight points, and senior Cuy Sheffield had five points and three assists. Joe Scott pulled down seven rebounds to led the Jackets, who were outrebounded, 26-19.
“If anyone has watched us from the first game until now, they would see how much better we’ve gotten, and that’s all been because of our seniors,” said Kaufman. “They been the ones to kind of pull this thing along and really made this season what it is. We appreciate everything they do.
“This was the last time playing on their home floor, and they gave a great effort. They have nothing to be ashamed of and everything to be proud of.”
Mount Vernon’s junior varsity wrapped up its season with a loss as well. The junior Jackets fell to 18-2 on the season after a 42-31 defeat by New Albany. Andre Nixon led with nine points; Riley Swanson added eight points; and T.T. Crouch finished with six points.
Mount Vernon will now try to shake off the loss and prepare for the postseason. The Jackets open Division I postseason play on Wednesday at New Albany High School. They will face Thomas Worthington at 8 p.m.
“The thing about these guys are they bounce back,” Kaufman said. “They were part of our run last year. Our season hadn’t gone well, and we were able to regroup for the tournament. That’s the same thing we’ve got to do now. We’ll be ready.”