By Steven Kochersperger
The Big Eight Conference basketball season opened with a bang for the Mount Vernon girls’ basketball team Wednesday evening.
The Wildcats, undefeated through their first four games, hoped to keep their winning ways going as they hosted the 4-1 Princeton Tigers. And what a game it was.
Princeton brought with them a highly touted freshman, Jackie Young, who put on a show scoring 35 points to lead all scorers. But Mount Vernon proved that in the game of basketball the team effort can overcome an amazing individual performance, and the Wildcats won the battle 56-52. “It’s a good team win,” Wildcat coach Steve Mitchell said. ”I think we played well as a team. They (Princeton) obviously had the best player on the floor but we had the best team on the floor I feel like. I’m really proud of our team.”
That team effort took a little time to come together Wednesday night. The game opened in sloppy fashion with both teams missing several shots and struggling to keep a handle on the ball. Both teams seemed to be trying to test each other and both defenses kept the score low, especially in the first period.
“It was like a couple of heavyweights in boxing trying to figure each other out a little bit,” Mitchell said. “We were trying to figure out what kind of defense to use against Princeton and Jackie Young. It didn’t seem that we ever really figured that out. I thought Ellen (Foster) did a good job against Young but she got tired and we tried to rotate people to put on her.”
Young ended the first period for Princeton hitting a buzzer beating three pointer from beyond college range to pull within seven points at 13-6. But the Tigers would not get any closer that first half as the Wildcats took their seven-point lead into the half leading 26-19.
The third period began with Mount Vernon building their lead and with 3:52 left in the period the Wildcats stretched that lead to 10 when the junior, Foster, nailed a three pointer.
But Princeton was not about to be blown out and once again Young hit a buzzer beating three pointer to end the period and bring Princeton back within seven points heading into the final period of play.
It was the fourth and final period that proved to be worth the price of admission. Princeton began the fourth with the momentum and went on an 11-4 run to tie the game 48-48 with 3:21 left.
But Mount Vernon had their own freshman answer in the person of Alexis Nall. Nall scored six points in the final minutes of the game including an important basket with 42.6 seconds left in the game that put the Cats up 54-52.
”In the fourth quarter, that was just two great athletes (Young and Nall),” Mitchell said after the game. “Here’s a freshman stepping in (Nall) and scoring in double digits every game. I’ve never had that as a coach.”
Nall ended up with 14 points in the contest. The Wildcats would keep Princeton scoreless from the 54-52 point and hold on to win the game 56-52 running their season record to 5-0 and 1-0 in the Big Eight Conference.
Senior Jacey Ritzert led all Wildcat scorers with 21 points, 15 of which came in the first half of play. She continues to lead the Wildcats in her senior season and coach Mitchell believes we will continue to see her play this way all season.
“She can have that kind of night every game,” Mitchell said. “She’s been All Conference since her freshman year and will probably end up the only girl in Mount Vernon girls basketball history to be a 4-year All Conference player.She’s that kind of player and she came ready to play tonight.”
By Steven Kochersperger
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