MOUNT VERNON — In the last home game of the season, the Mount Vernon boys basketball team showed it can play with the best.
The Yellow Jackets lost to Ohio Capital Conference-Capital Division champ New Albany, 46-38, in a game where Mount Vernon played hard but could not close the gap.
The Jackets held the lead just once — 2-0 in the first minute — but played to within one on several possessions. They allowed the Eagles to take a six-point lead just once, with 4 1/2 minutes to go in the game.
“We had the game at the tempo that we wanted,” Mount Vernon head coach Kurt Kaufman said. “When we fell behind by six, we kind of got into panic mode in the fourth quarter. Until then, we played really well.”
As expected, all three seniors for Mount Vernon — Ben Hoar, Daniel Kelly and Charlie Phillips — started the game. All three played a majority of the game and combining for 20 points, eight boards and two steals.
“My brother sent me a text before the game,” Hoar said. “He said to leave everything on the court. You’ll look back and regret it if you don’t. Win or lose, that’s what I did.”
“You’ve got to look at how these seniors did over their careers,” Kaufman said. “What they’ve given to our program is incredible. They give back to the program. They’re our leaders. Ben and Charlie have been varsity for three years. And Daniel has worked so hard to get to where he’s at. That’s a testament to them, the type of young men that they are.”
Phillips, who ended up needed a stitch after taking an elbow in the game, was ready for a physical matchup.
“We knew it from the last time we played,” Phillips said. “They’re a good team. We played them tough right up to the end.”
New Albany’s key to winning was its defense. Although the Eagles didn’t force many turnovers, they made each one count.
Mount Vernon struggled offensively from the outside. Phillips, Riley Swanson and Seth Badger were cut off by New Albany’s quick defense. Hoar and Brad Fenton were able to get decent looks inside, but the ball didn’t always go in.
Although Mount Vernon was never able to snag the lead, New Albany never pulled away. As soon as the team had a chance to break the game open, Mount Vernon forced a turnover. The Eagles actually had more turnovers than the Jackets (14-12).
“When they started to run, we never backed down,” Kelly said. “The emotion was unbelievable.”