MOUNT VERNON — Let the second season begin.
The boys basketball sectionals officially get underway today. For the Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets, it may be their best chance to make some noise into March.
Tonight the Jackets face Westerville Central in the sectional semifinals. The Warhawks hold a 14-6 record going into the tournament, having won their last six.
That doesn’t intimidate the Jackets.
“We’ll be ready for them,” Mount Vernon head coach Kurt Kaufman said. “They’ll come ready to play, and so will we.”
Like the Jackets, the Warhawks have solid senior leadership. Kamorin Harris and Nick Vannett, two big forwards, will man the post. Both players shoot better than 50 percent from the floor, with Vannett leading his team from the foul line at 83 percent.
Quentin Henderson, the leading guard for Westerville Central, averages 13.1 points per game — tied for the lead with Harris — and averages 2.8 assists per game.
The Warhawks are money from the three-point line, shooting nearly 29 percent as a team. Three of their regular starters hit more than 30 percent.
“I hope we’re ready for that,” Kaufman said. “We’ve been practicing for that. We just have to get out there and do what we do.”
Cutting down the perimeter is one thing the Jackets have done well this season. Throughout the year, three-point percentages against Mount Vernon have been steadily going down. Charlie Phillips, Riley Swanson and an emerging Will O’Hara can be credited for this.
Westerville Central likes to run. The Warhawks use a quick-strike offense that’s perfectly suited for quick, high-scoring runs.
“We’ve got to slow it down,” Kaufman said. “They want to run, so we have to grind it out. Make them play our game.”
Defensively, Vannett is the leader. The big senior averages 1.7 blocks per game. But Mount Vernon’s Ben Hoar matches up with him well, and should get a number of looks inside. When Hoar is guarded and dishes it off, Brad Fenton could be open for the inside jumper. Or if Hoar kicks it back out, the Jackets can expect good looks — the Warhawks have given up nearly as many 3-pointers as they’ve made.
The two schools have a recent history. Mount Vernon knocked the Warhawks out in sectionals in 2009. But this is a different Westerville Central team, and a different Mount Vernon team.
Mount Vernon didn’t let the new blast of winter weather slow the team down as it prepared for tonight’s game.
“We got in a full practice before the snow hit,” Kaufman said. “That’s always good.”
The game, to be played at Jonathan Alder High School, is scheduled for an 8 p.m. tip-off. Should they win, the Jackets move on to the sectional final on Friday. Their opponent will be the winner of tonight’s Olentangy Orange-Hilliard Davidson matchup.
Mount Vernon split its season series with Olentangy Orange. Are the Jackets looking forward to a rubber match?
“Right now, we’re focused on Westerville Central,” Kaufman said. “We’re putting all of our eggs in one basket. When we get through this game, then we’ll talk about Friday.”
The Mount Vernon game isn’t the only one with local interest tonight. Highland is in action as well, taking on Big Walnut. That game will be played at Delaware Hayes High School at 8 p.m. Also, the Fredericktown girls basketball team takes the court in its sectional final, as the Freddies take on Northmor. That game will tip off at 6 p.m. at Marysville High School.