MOUNT VERNON — They waited all year for this.
Last season, the Mount Vernon boys basketball team got pounded by the Lexington Minutemen. This year, in their season opener, the Yellow Jackets wanted revenge.
It wasn’t easy.
They hit less than 20 percent of their free throws in the first half; at one point they had missed seven in a row. And they had only three offensive rebounds the entire game. But Mount Vernon hit the shots when they needed them most, and came down with a 52-44 victory in overtime.
It came down to the guys coach Kurt Kaufman needed to depend on the most. Senior Ben Hoar came down with two of the three offensive rebounds, both late in the game. And senior Charlie Phillips hit two clutch free throws in overtime to seal the victory.
“(Hoar) has been on varsity for three years. You like to see guys in that situation step it up,” Kaufman said.
As for Phillips, what used to be an opportunity for growth has become a strength for the Yellow Jackets.
“(Phillips) was able to step in and hit those two clutch free throws. It says a lot about him. He comes in every morning and he shoots,” Kaufman said.
Kaufman left his starting five in for most of the game. Hoar, Phillips, Daniel Kelly, Riley Swanson and Brad Fenton played all but 10 minutes of the contest.
It was cold shooting early on for the Yellow Jackets. They hit just one shot in the first five minutes. And they weren’t getting second chances. The team had no offensive rebounds in the first period. In that same span, Lexington’s Robbie Rinehart came up with three offensive rebounds on his own, converting all three to points and helping the Minutemen to an early 8-2 lead.
“They’re big, they’re athletic and they fly to the boards,” Kaufman said of Lexington’s forwards.
If poor shooting was a problem for Mount Vernon, turning the ball over was not. The team had only eight turnovers the entire game.