MOUNT VERNON — Playing at home for the first time this season was just what the Mount Vernon High School basketball team needed. After beginning the season one the road and with an 0-2 mark, the Yellow Jackets returned to “The Hive,” and knocked off the rival Delaware Pacers, 50-38, in Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division action.
Playing in front of a large crowd did the Jackets good, and the win boosted their confidence after two tough games to start the season.
“This was a good win; it helps us get our confidence back,” said Mount Vernon senior Joe Scott, who went 8-of-9 from the field and finished with 20 points. “It shows what we can do if we just make the plays.”
The game turned out to be a defensive battle, and it wasn’t until late that the Jackets pulled away. Delaware (2-1, 1-1 OCC Capital) came into the contest averaging 65.5 points a game, but the Jackets’ defense clamped down and held the Pacers to just 15-of-39 shooting. Mount Vernon, meanwhile, shot over 50 percent (14-of-25) from the field and went 21-of-28 at the free-throw line.
“These guys were hungry for a win,” said Mount Vernon coach Kurt Kaufman. “We played really well in our last game, but came up on the short end. Tonight, I think we played more of a complete game. It was physical and wasn’t always pretty, but our guys hung in there and stayed tough. That’s how we got the victory.”
Delaware jumped ahead early, taking an 8-3 lead in just over five minutes of the game. Mount Vernon answered with a pair of buckets by Ben Hoar and Russell Doup to cut it to one point, but a 3-pointer by Zach Parsons on an assist by Matty Bingaya put the Pacers up, 11-7, after one period.
The 3 didn’t stop the Jackets’ momentum, however, and Mount Vernon went on an 11-2 spurt to open the second quarter. Scott scored on back-to-back baskets top open the quarter and Riley Swanson added four more points during the run. Charlie Phillips, who finished with nine points and four assists, scored his first points of the night off a 3-pointer during the stretch as well. Bingaya answered with an old-fashioned 3-pointer and then converted a three-point play to put Delaware back on top, 19-18 with less than two minutes to go. Scott scored again and Swanson added another free throw to put Mount Vernon ahead at the break, 21-19.
“We just tried to pick up our intensity,” said Scott. “We started playing our game and making some shots.”
Bingaya, who led Delaware with eight points in the first half, was held pretty quiet in the second half as Swanson and Doup drew the task of stopping him. It worked as Bingaya scored just five more points in the game before fouling out in the final two minutes.
“He is a very good player,” said Kaufman of Bingaya. “Obviously, he is a big part of their offense. We knew we had to stop him. He was able to get a couple of penetrations in the first half, but in the second half we took that away. The credit goes to Riley and to Russell because they worked their butts off tonight guarding him.”
The Jackets, meanwhile, went inside in the third quarter, scoring all seven of its points by post players Hoar and Scott. The Pacers managed just two back-to-back buckets midway through the third quarter, and trailed after three, 28-23.
Nick Caudill got the fourth quarter going for the Pacers with a 3-pointer to pull within two, but Scott lifted the Jackets to a 10-point advantage with eight straight points. Bingaya made some noise with a steal and dunk to slow the 14-3 run, but the Pacers couldn’t find a way to stop the Jackets. They tried fouling, but Mount Vernon went 10-of-14 down the stretch to secure the 50-38 victory.
“Our guys really had a lot of confidence in the second half,” Kaufman said. “Our shots started dropping. Shots we hadn’t been getting in the last two games started dropping. It is amazing what confidence does for a kid.
“We feel like (our free-throw shooting) is one of our strengths, and we want to go to the line in those situations. We feel like we have guys that can knock it down, and we were able to stretch the lead by doing that.”
Swanson added nine points and two assists for the Jackets, and Hoar had six points and four rebounds. Bradley Fenton had three blocks as well.
In junior varsity action, Mount Vernon rolled over Delaware, 55-21, to improve to 3-0 on the season. Will O’Hara and Nathan Miller scored 10 points apiece to lead the Jackets. Daniel Kelly added nine points.
Mount Vernon also picked up a freshman victory, crushing the Pacers, 57-18. Eric Ashbrook led all Mount Vernon scorers with 18 points, and Seth Badger dropped in 13.
Mount Vernon has a week off before returning to the hardwood. The Jackets will host Franklin Heights in another OCC Capital contest on Friday night.
“This gives us a lot of confidence, but on the same token, every night is a battle,” said Kaufman. “Franklin Heights has a lot of good athletes, so we’ve got to be ready to play.”