MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon High School boys basketball team overcame a slow start and routed the Watkins Memorial Warriors, 71-34, in Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division action at “The Hive” on Tuesday night. Mount Vernon, which shot just 6-of-15 in the first quarter, used pressure defense to help force 25 Warrior turnovers in the game.
“Regardless of who we are playing, we’ve got things we want to work on and get better at, and we did that,” said Mount Vernon coach Kurt Kaufman. “These guys understand that. Tonight, we came out and we had a great effort on the defensive end. When you hold a team to six points in a half, you are doing something right. That’s something we can hang our hats on and take great pride in.”
With many of the Yellow Jackets’ shots missing their intended target early in the first quarter, the Warriors stayed close for the first few minutes. Mount Vernon scored the first six points off two buckets by Joe Scott and a jumper from Russell Doup, but Watkins Memorial trailed just three, 7-4, with 2:44 to go in the quarter. The Jackets closed the quarter on a roll, however, scoring four times to take a 15-4 lead after one. Steals by Bradley Fenton and Riley Swanson helped fuel that spurt.
“We got good looks at the beginning; we just didn’t make them,” Kaufman said. “We missed a couple of bunnies, easy layups, and a couple of wide-open looks that our guys normally make. I wasn’t concerned about the shots that we were taking. It was just a matter of making them.”
It didn’t end there, however. Mount Vernon scored the first 14 points of the second quarter, including six from Scott and four from Tad Glibert, to go ahead, 29-4, with 2:02 to play in the half. A putback by Evan Werner was the only points the Warriors scored in the quarter, which ended with the Jackets ahead, 33-6, at the break.
Mount Vernon rebounded in the second quarter to shoot 42.8 percent in the first half (12-of-28) from the field and 9-of-11 from the free-throw line. Scott led the way with 11 points, and Swanson had eight points. Watkins Memorial, meanwhile, shot just 2-of-19 in the first half, and was 0-of-2 from the line.
With a commanding lead, the Jackets continued to add to it in the second half. A turnaround jumper by Glibert started the third quarter, and a layup by Ben Hoar off a Charlie Phillips assist made it a 31-point lead, 37-6. Taylor Fuss took a pass from Le’Trel Taylor and hit a 3-pointer to get the Watkins Memorial offense moving, but four straight Mount Vernon buckets, including three from Hoar, made it a 45-9 game with 3:23 to go.
Taylor began to emerge late in the quarter, scoring a pair of buckets in the final three minutes, and a steal and layup by Daylen Stewart helped cut the lead. Swanson scored a three-point play in the final minute of the quarter, and then scored a putback with three seconds left to push the Jacket lead back to 35, 50-15, after three.
Watkins Memorial managed to continue to put some offense together in the fourth quarter as Taylor scored eight points off a putback and a pair of 3s in the first two minutes. A jumper by Devonte Marable cut the lead to 30, 55-25, with 5:32 to go, but back-to-back buckets by Glibert kept the Jackets comfortably ahead. Taylor hit his third 3-pointer of the quarter with 4:31 to play, and after a bucket by Fenton, Stewart hit a 3 of his own. That prompted a timeout by Kaufman with 4:11 to play, which in turn resulted in several personnel changes for both teams.
Swanson had another two buckets in the next minute, and Daniel Kelly scored a layin off a Swanson assist to make it a 67-31 game with 2:51 to play, and Ethan Abell registered the first points of his varsity career to make it a 40-point lead, 71-31. Abell had back-to-back layups. Chris Skaggs hit another 3-pointer to cap the scoring for Watkins Memorial and seal the Jackets’ victory.
“We wanted to force some issues on defense, and we scored a lot off of our defense tonight,” said Kaufman. “We got some easy layups at the other end, which is something we need to be able to do. ... They made some shots in the fourth quarter. (Taylor) is a pretty nice player. He made some 3s because we didn’t get out on our shooters like we should have.
“It doesn’t matter who we have on the floor, expectations stay the same. We made some changes and those guys played real well down the stretch and we were able to add to our lead.”
Four Yellow Jackets finished in double figures, including a game-high 17 points by Swanson. Swanson also had five rebounds. Hoar finished with 14 points and six rebounds; Glibert had 12 points, five steals and three assists; and Scott added seven rebounds and three steals to go along with his 11 points. Mount Vernon finished the game shooting 30-of-51 from the field and went 11-of-17 at the foul line.
Taylor led the Warriors with 15 points — all in the second half — and Stewart had five points, two steals and two assists.
In reserve action, Mount Vernon improved to 8-0 on the season with a 53-23 victory. Daniel Kelly dropped in 15 points to lead the effort, and Nick Robinson added 10 points. Nathan Miller chipped in seven points.
The Jackets, winners of six in a row, are back in action on Friday when they travel to Big Walnut for another OCC contest.
“We’re going to focus on Friday now; we go to Big Walnut, which is one of our rivalry games,” Kaufman said. “We’ve got to concentrate for four quarters and execute.”