MOUNT VERNON — For the second straight night, the Mount Vernon boys basketball team started a game looking flat.
On Saturday, the Yellow Jackets (9-2) battled hard to force overtime, only to see their hopes fall at the free-throw line, allowing Newark to celebrate a 63-57 win.
Mount Vernon fell behind in overtime when Newark hit its first two shots from the field. The Jackets proceeded to miss their first three free-throw attempts. Mount Vernon went just 2-for-8 from the field in overtime. Newark (8-4), on the other hand, went 12-for-14 from the line in the extra frame. A hard stat to overcome when you fall behind and are forced to foul to stop the clock.
“When we get to overtime, that’s something we pride ourselves on, is finishing games,” Mount Vernon head coach Kurt Kaufman said. “Unfortunately, they (Newark) did the things they needed to do to win. We had our opportunities, and we didn’t take advantage of those.”
Two key players, Charlie Phillips and Brad Fenton, fouled out in overtime, and the Jackets were forced to mount a comeback without them.
Riley Swanson led the way for the Jackets in the extra time. The 6-foot junior drove to the lane multiple times, drawing fouls. At one point, Swanson stepped back and drained a 3-pointer, keeping Mount Vernon in the game. Swanson scored seven of his 16 points in the extra frame.
“Swanson is an emotional leader for us,” Kaufman said. “He does so much on the floor for us. Defensively, he made life tough on (Newark). And he continues to get better.”
Sophomore Seth Badger scored on a three-point play with 15 seconds left to put the Jackets within three. But Newark’s Damin Ash hit two free throws on the ensuing foul to seal the game.
Ash, along with James Triplett, Bret Woolard and Brad Woolard, are all listed at 6-foot-4. Their combined height created problems for the shorter and more exhausted Jackets, particularly in overtime when all four players had been rotated in and out throughout the game.
This was the second straight night the Jackets had faced a team with much bigger players. On Friday, New Albany played a physical game that overwhelmed Mount Vernon. On Saturday, the Jackets came out looking gun-shy, failing to track down loose balls and allowing the Wildcats to get open looks to the basket.
Down early in the first, 9-2, Mount Vernon scored six quick points –– five of them by Ben Hoar, who ended the game with a team-high 17 –– and the Jackets were down by one.
The Wildcats then went on a 12-2 run, during which Triplett and Bret Woolard dominated the boards, gathering eight rebounds together during the stretch. Consecutive 3-pointers by Jalen Dartis and Daniel Logan put Newark ahead, 21-10.