MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets just keep steamrolling along.
Massillon Washington was the latest foe to be smothered by the boys basketball team’s defense on Saturday night. The Jackets held the Tigers to just 13-of-32 shooting and forced 27 turnovers in a 62-33 victory at “The Hive.”
“Our guys keep getting better and better,” said Mount Vernon coach Kurt Kaufman. “It is a long season, and you’ve got to approach it, whether it’s practice or a game, as a chance to get better each time you step out onto the floor, and our guys have bought into that. They know that the defensive end is where we start, but offensively, things are coming along all right.”
Early on, it looked as though Massillon could hang with Mount Vernon. The Jackets led, 8-4, 4 1/2 minutes into the first quarter after getting three points from Joe Scott and a 3-pointer from Charlie Phillips. Evan Malinowski made it a one-point game, however, after connecting from long range. Ben Hoar, who already had one bucket, gave the Jackets some breathing room, though, to end the quarter with a pair of buckets. Riley Swanson also laid one in to make it a 14-7 lead after one.
Malinowski hit another 3 to open the second quarter to trim the lead to four, but a 6-2 run by Mount Vernon re-established the seven-point advantage with 3:34 to go. The teams traded free throws to keep it at seven as the clock wound down, but Mount Vernon got one last shot. Swanson’s layup attempt missed with four seconds left, but Bradley Fenton tipped the ball back in with one second on the clock to send Mount Vernon into the locker room with a 23-14 lead.
“(Fenton’s bucket) was big,” Kaufman said. “It was a tight game and that was just an effort play. Guys want to do the little things, and a guy like Fenton, who took three charges tonight, was big. Those are things that propel a team. It’s not just one guy doing it; it all the guys doing it.”
As good as the Mount Vernon defense was in the first half, it was even better in the third quarter. The Tigers scored just three buckets in the next eight minutes, while the Jacket offense found its groove. Phillips opened the quarter up with a three-point play, and that started an 9-2 run for Mount Vernon.
Joe Muntean scored off a putback for Massillon with 4:13 to go, but that didn’t stop the Jackets, who rattled off another 11 unanswered points in the next three minutes. Russell Doup hit a 3-pointer, and Scott, Phillips and Tad Glibert each hit jumpers in the run.
“We’ve really been working on reversing the ball and wearing the defense down,” said Phillips. “That’s given us some good shots that way.”
Two free throws by Swanson were matched by a jumper from Malinowski with 47 seconds left, but Scott had enough time to score twice in the final seconds. A three-point play with 37 seconds left made it a 46-20 game, and another layin off a pass from Swanson with four seconds left gave the Jackets a 25-point quarter.
Mount Vernon continued its assault into the fourth quarter. Phillips and Hoar each scored layups wrapped around another Doup 3-pointer to establish a 55-20 lead with 5 1/2 minutes to play. At that point, Kaufman began to pull his starters, but the Jackets weren’t going away. A three-point play by Swanson and a jumper by Daniel Kelly opened up the biggest lead of the game, 60-22, with 3:20 to go. Massillon closed the game on a 9-2 run, getting a pair of 3-pointers and a three-point play, to finish the 62-33 Jacket win. Ethan Abell hit two free throws for Mount Vernon’s only points in the final three minutes.
“This gives us a lot of confidence,” said Hoar. “If we can do what we did tonight against other teams, we’ll keep the roll going.”
Scott led the team, which shot 24-of-40 from the field, with 14 points (6-of-6 from the field). He also had two steals. Phillips and Hoar each had 12 points and three rebounds with Phillips added three steals and two assists. Swanson added seven points; Glibert finished with four points, three steals and three assists; and Fenton had three points and four rebounds.
Malinowski, Massillon’s leading scorer, scored 12 points for the Tigers before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Second-leading scorer Jamil Dudley was held to just one basket.
Mount Vernon’s junior varsity squad improved to 14-1 on the year with a 53-38 victory over the Tigers. Daniel Kelley led the Jackets with 15 points. Nathan Miller added 11 points, and Nick Robinson scored 10 points in the win.
The Jackets are back in action on Tuesday, hosting Hilliard Bradley in an Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division game at 6 p.m. Mount Vernon leads the league by one game over New Albany and Olentangy Orange.
“We’re just taking it one game at a time, and it is business as usual,” said Kaufman. “These guys will come into practice (today) and we’re going to work. These guys understand that we have to be ready for tomorrow.”