MOUNT VERNON — Westerville North had all the answers against Mount Vernon on Saturday.
Every time the Jackets would make a run in the Division I District semifinal, the Warriors had the answer, moving on with a 46-39 victory at the Columbus Fairgrounds Coliseum.
“We just never really put together that run. We got a couple of steals, then we threw the ball away. We never really were able to get that run where we put the pressure on them. They were able to play with a five to seven point lead almost all day,” said Mount Vernon coach Kurt Kaufman.
“We usually like to play a little bit faster, but we knew with Mount Vernon it would be a possession-by-possession game,” said Westerville North coach Kevin Thuman. “We challenged our kids to step up on the defensive end. They (Mount Vernon) are tough to guard, but we had enough spurts to get up eight or nine points and just kind of held on.”
Things started well for the Jackets (19-4) as Joe Scott scored twice in the opening minute and Mount Vernon led 4-0. But, the Jackets’ offense went sour the rest of the quarter, as they only scored one more point and Westerville North took the lead for good.
The teams battled throughout the second quarter as the Warriors’ lead remained between four and eight points. It remained that way through the third, but Mount Vernon went back inside early in the fourth to close the gap and looked like they might make it all the way back.
The Jackets pulled within four (35-31), but North’s Ralph Hill put the dagger in the hearts of Jacket fans with a long 3-pointer after North had run off nearly a minute of the clock.
“They make you be patient. A couple of times, we passed and passed and passed and passed the ball. Then, Ralph hit that wide open 3 late in the game. We swung it and kicked it out and made two or three extra passes and then Ralph hit it from the corner,” Thuman said. “That was key, making those extra passes.”
“That was a big shot,” said Kaufman. “Now we’re fouling. That changed the complexity of the game.”
North wasn’t able to completely put the game away, making just 6 of 14 free-throw attempts down the stretch. But, Mount Vernon wasn’t able to get much going offensively and fell.
“We never really got in sync or were ever able to put together that run and put the pressure on them,” Kaufman said.
Ben Hoar led the Jackets with 12 points and nine rebounds. Scott added nine points and seven rebounds, while Russell Doup and Charlie Phillips both had seven points.
“Our goal was to get down here and we wanted to win a game down here. We fell short of that,” Kaufman said. “What these kids have accomplished this year in terms of going 19-4, winning the OCC, beating two really good tournament teams. You can’t take that away. These kids have accomplished so much because they just play so hard and play together.”
North was led by Hill, who had 18 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. He also made the Jackets change several shots as they went inside. Matt Rhodes added 12 points. Westerville North will now play Gahanna in the district finals.
The Jackets will now say good-bye to four seniors — Chris Ingersol, Tad Glibert, Russell Doup and Joe Scott.
“They’ve been incredible young leaders. They’re great basketball players, but they’re even greater young men. Their character is outstanding,” Kaufman said. “I’ve looked so forward to coming to practice every day and coaching these kids. They’ve done a nice job of passing the torch on to the younger kids. In the same token, we’re going to miss them.”