HEBRON — Thirty-two minutes wasn’t enough for the Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets and Newark Wildcats on Tuesday night. The two teams, tied at 47 after four quarters, played for more minutes before the Yellow Jackets emerged as the champion, 51-49.
Neither team performed particularly well in overtime, but Mount Vernon did enough to win. Newark turned the ball over on three straight possessions in the final minute, and the Jackets hit just 1-of-4 free throws. The Jacket defense also held the Wildcats scoreless for the final two minutes.
”I think, defensively, we were able to make them work for every possession, and that’s kind of been our standard all year. We came through tonight,” said Mount Vernon coach Kurt Kaufman. “We missed some free throws, but we weren’t giving anything up on the other end, which was big. We were able to disrupt their last couple of possessions and hold on.”
Junior Charlie Phillips, who got the Jackets going right from the start, provided the valuable points in overtime. He hit a 3-pointer with 1:42 to play to put Mount Vernon ahead, 50-49, and then hit the final free throw with seven seconds remaining. Phillips finished with 20 points.
“Charlie has been through this,” Kaufman said. “With his experience from golf, he was ready to go and he is going to continue to be ready. He is a gamer, and everyone else is a gamer. They all step up. this was a hard-fought game, and for our guys to be able to pull it out shows a lot of guts.”
Phillips scored off a pass from Ben Hoar to open the game, and then after a Newark putback, hit a 3-pointer to keep Mount Vernon ahead. Ryan Dierks scored a rare four-point play 36 seconds later to put the Wildcats up, 6-5, but three buckets by the Jackets made it an 11-6 lead with 2:11 to play in the first quarter. Newark managed to tie the game at 11 after getting a buzzer-beating 3 from Christian Keller.
Mount Vernon managed to grow the lead in the second quarter, going on a 10-4 run. Ben Hoar scored a pair of baskets and Phillips hit another 3 to fuel the run. Dierks hit another 3-pointer of his own to pull Newark back within four at the halftime break, 22-18.
The third quarter saw neither team giving in. Mount Vernon scored first on a layin by Joe Scotts, but Newark answered with a 3 by James Kurzawa. That set a precident over the next four minutes as the lead bounced back and forth. A layin by Phillips stretched it to seven, 34-27, with 3:51 to go, but following a timeout, Newark rattled off seven straight points — including five from Ryan Sole — to pull even with 1:33 to go. Russell Doup hit 1-of-2 free throws with 24 seconds to go to put Mount Vernon up by one, 35-34, after three.
The Jackets continued to push the Wildcats early in the fourth quarter. Six straight points opened up another seven-point Mount Vernon advantage, but Newark rallied over the final five minutes. The Wildcats went on a 13-6 run to close the game, including seven straight points in the final two minutes. Kurzawa hit a 3-pointer with 1:53 to go, and then hit another jumper at the one-minute mark to tie the game at 47. Mount Vernon had a shot to win the game in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, but two shot attempts missed their mark and Newark rebounded the ball. Newark then managed to get a shot off at the buzzer, but the long three-point attempt missed to send the game into overtime.
In addition to Phillips, the Jackets got nine points and seven rebounds from Scott. Hoar posted eight points and six rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter; Tad Glibert added six points; and Doup had five points. As a team, Mount Vernon shot 16-of-31 from the field and went 16-of-25 from the free-throw line.
“I thought we did a nice job on offense,” said Kaufman. “We did a nice job of getting the ball inside to our posts, which opened up drives for our guards. I thought our guards were aggressive tonight.”
Newark got 14 points from Dierks. Sole had 12 points and four assists, and Kurzawa added 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
With the win, Mount Vernon advances to the sectional final on Friday night. The Jackets will face Brookhaven, a 65-30 winner over Lancaster at Lakewood on Tuesday night, at 8 p.m. at Worthington Christian Middle School.
“The thing about the Central District is every game you play, it is a tough game,” said Kaufman. “We’ve got to be ready to go. We’ve got things we’ve got to get better at — making foul shots down the stretch — there are things we can take from this game to make us better heading into Friday.”
Note: The Worthington Christian gymnasium is located at 8225 Worthington-Galena Road in Westerville. This is different from the location of the high school.