NEW ALBANY — Playing in the Ohio Capital Conference, every game is a battle. To win the conference, one must survive those battles, and in many cases, take the battle to the opponent.
Mount Vernon has done that all year, taking the battle to its opponent. But, on Friday, New Albany turned the tables on the Jackets, pounding them into submission for a 56-51 victory.
The loss kept the Jackets (17-3 overall, 12-2 OCC) from winning the Capital Division title outright, but they did share the title with Olentangy Orange, which beat Delaware 54-50 on Friday.
“Like I told the guys, one game does not make a season. You can’t take away what they’ve done over the last 17 games,” said Mount Vernon coach Kurt Kaufman, whose team saw its 17-game win streak snapped. “We’ve stumbled before. We stumbled the first two games and we picked ourselves up and kept right on moving. I fully anticipate that from this team right now.”
Things didn’t start well for the Jackets, as New Albany (13-6, 11-3) was able to hit a couple of 3s and take a 10-4 lead midway through the first quarter. But, MV was able to score the final five points of the quarter to close the gap.
The teams battled throughout the second and third quarters with the Eagles barely able to hang on to the lead. NA actually took a five-point lead midway through the third quarter, but the Jackets bounced back with seven straight and took the lead on a 3-pointer from Charlie Phillips.
But, that lead was short lived as the Eagles ran off the next eight points, including two big 3-pointers to regain the lead.
“We got the lead and then came down and shot it quickly. At that point, I think you want to be patient. We got hurried up. They got the ball back and came down and tied it up. Then they hit two 3s there,” Kaufman said. “We were in a situation where we were kind of controlling the tempo and now we were forced to play their game.”
The fourth quarter turned into a slugfest as both teams spent a good portion of their time at the free-throw line. The Eagles were able to capitalize, making 12 of 16 free throws in the final minute to hold off the Jackets.
Mount Vernon struggled offensively, making just 18 of 41 shots from the field during the game.
“They were physical. I thought their pressure kind of hurried us. Instead of getting the ball inside, we settled for some jump shots,” Kaufman said. “I think their pressure kind of hurried us and forced us out.”
Joe Scott led the Jackets with 13 points and six rebounds. Phillips added 10 points, while Riley Swanson had 10. Russell Doup scored seven, and Ben Hoar had six points and six rebounds. Tad Glibert finished with three points and four assists.
New Albany was led by Tom Smotrich, who hit three 3-pointers en route to 18 points. Nick Sosh added 12 points and Scott McDonald had 11.
“They shot the ball well,” Kaufman said of the Eagles, who hit on 18 of 29 shots from the field. “They’ve got some good shooters, so we wanted to get out and try to force some turnovers. To play defense like that, you have to have backside help. Tonight, we were late getting there.”
The Jackets will have to pick themselves up quickly, as they take on Newark in the Division I Sectional tournament on Tuesday. The game is at Lakewood High School at 8 p.m.
“We’ve got Newark on Tuesday. We’ve got to understand there are certain things we’ve got to do to be successful on Tuesday. Our kids know it. They’ve righted the ship before and I’m sure they’ll do the same,” Kaufman said.
Mount Vernon’s junior varsity team beat the Eagles, 32-23. Dan Kelly and Will O’Hara both scored nine points to lead the Jackets.
The freshman team also beat New Albany, 51-30. Seth Badger led the Jackets (15-1) with 14 points. Eric Ashbrook added 13 and Duke Cunningham 11.
The freshmen will take on Watkins Memorial today at 1:30 p.m. in the first game of the Reynoldsburg Freshman Tournament.