MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets boys basketball team just keeps right on rolling.
Friday, the team showed no fear as it stomped on OCC rival Big Walnut, 54-28.
The Jackets (9-0, 6-0) had the size to match up with the Golden Eagles inside. Turns out, they didn’t need it.
Mount Vernon’s shooting has improved throughout the season, and Big Walnut (2-6, 1-5) became the latest witness to this. The Yellow Jackets connected on six out of nine three-point tries in the game. They also went 14-of-16 from the free-throw line.
“We’ve made a conscious effort to work on our free throws in practice,” Mount Vernon head coach Kurt Kaufman said. “And our guys know. They’re putting the time in, and it’s paying off.”
Mount Vernon’s shooting gave the team the lead. The defense allowed them to keep it.
Big Walnut connected on just 10 out of 43 shots throughout the game, including 0-for-9 from three-point range.
“We talk about defense all the time, and the team really buys into it,” Kaufman said. “Defensively, we had a rhythm that carried us until we could get hot offensively.”
Junior Bradley Fenton was the star on defense, swatting away four attempts and collecting a steal. Overall, seven Yellow Jackets collected at least one steal.
Big Walnut was handicapped from early in the first period. One of the team’s top ball-handlers, junior Tyler Beam, was injured during a steal when Mount Vernon’s Daniel Kelly fell on his back.
Beam did return, but was used at a limited capacity, and never made a major impact on the game.
Mount Vernon came out hitting its first two shots, including a 3-pointer from senior Charlie Phillips. Phillips connected with another three-point shot at the midway point of the first period to give Mount Vernon an 8-2 lead.
“I thought we gave up too many offensive rebounds in the first half,” Kaufman said.
Unfortunately for Big Walnut, despite collecting four offensive rebounds in the first four minutes, they could convert on just one. Sophomore Seth Myers, who collected two of those rebounds, had four points in the first period. They were the only points the Eagles scored.
Mount Vernon continued with the hot shooting in the second period. Junior Riley Swanson connected on a 3-pointer from a Ben Hoar pass to put the Jackets ahead by nine. Hoar himself would score eight points in the second, and would go on to lead all scorers with 14 by the end of the game.
Leading by 10 at the break, Mount Vernon came out in the second half with some sloppy play. Four straight turnovers led to coach Kaufman to call timeout.
“I think we came out just a little too fired up,” Kaufman said. “We talked (at halftime) about stretching our lead. We just needed to settle down and work our offense.”
The Jackets calmed down enough to seize control of the game. A Fenton-to-Swanson pass for three, followed by a Phillips-to-Nathan Miller pass for another, gave Mount Vernon a 31-15 lead late in the third.
From there, the Jackets sailed to the finish.