By Steven Kochersperger
It was bound to happen sooner or later. Friday night the fifth-ranked Mount Vernon boys basketball team took their ten game win streak and undefeated season into Vincennes Lincoln High School for a Big Eight Conference matchup that had all the makings of a postseason game. Both teams found themselves tied atop the Big Eight Conference standings and knew this game would be a battle between two well-coached and hard working teams. The billing did not disappoint.
It took two overtimes, but in the end the Alices were just too much for the Wildcats to handle Friday night as they handed Mount Vernon their first loss of the season 73-68.
“What a great environment for a High School basketball game,” Wildcat coach Marc Hostetter said. “It definitely felt like a sectional type game. Both teams played really hard tonight. I don’t think either team played particularly well offensively but a lot of that had to do with how we guarded each other. It was a battle out there and unfortunately on the road you have to be a little better than you are at home and tonight the ball bounced in the wrong direction for us.”
Coming into the game, Mount Vernon knew they were going to see the best that the Alices had. That’s just the way it is when you play an undefeated opponent. Every team you play wants to be the first to hand the undefeated team their first loss. And Vincennes came into the game ready to play and willing to feed the ball inside.
The first period saw the teams trading baskets, going back and forth with the lead. And though the Wildcats found themselves down 13-12 at the end of the first period of play, they seemed to find their groove in the second period. The Cats hit three big three pointers in the second period to take the lead into the locker room at the half 23-21.
But that momentum was short lived. The Alices looked like a team on a mission in the third period as they outscored Mount Vernon 19-12 to take a five point lead into the final period of play.
In that fourth period of play the Wildcats took the control back and clawed their way back into the game. With 5:01 left in the period the Cats found themselves down by eight at 46-38. And after a timeout to regroup the Wildcats came roaring back to score the next eight points and tie the game at 46-46 with 2:01 left in regulation. That’s when the real battle began.
The teams went back and forth hitting shots to take the lead or tie the game in the final two minutes of play, and when the horn sounded the score was tied 52-52. Not much would change in overtime though. But this time it was the Wildcats who took the lead and looked to be headed for the win.
With just a few minutes left in overtime Collin Varner hit two free throws to put Mount Vernon ahead 59-54. But the Alices came roaring back themselves fighting for every point and eventually hitting a free throw on a three point play to tie the game at 63-63 with 47 seconds left in overtime.
And while the Wildcats had a chance to win the game, the shot at the buzzer just wouldn’t fall and the game headed into a second overtime. Early in the second overtime, senior Brian Koch fouled out of the game and it seemed to take the air right out of the sails for the Wildcats. Not much seemed to go Mount Vernon’s way in the second overtime and when the buzzer sounded the Cats found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard, losing to the Alices 73-68. “This really was a case of someone had to win tonight,” Hostetter said. “We don’t have ties in this sport and someone was going to eventually win. Unfortunately it wasn’t us.”
The loss dropped the Wildcats to 10-1 on the season and 4-1 in the Big Eight Conference. And while it wasn’t easy to absorb the first loss of the season, Hostetter remains optimistic and is keeping things in perspective.
“You can’t teach the experience of being in the environment we were in tonight and being in the situations we were in,” Hostetter said. ”We grow from games like this and hopefully come out a better team. The Big Eight is not over. And that’s not the only championship we are competing for. There are still more on the table. And not to break anyone’s spirit but we probably weren’t going to have an undefeated season. Those things are extremely rare. We’ll look at this game the same way we do any game. There are definitely some things we need to do better and will work on those things in practice.”
Drake McNamara led the Wildcats with 21 points Friday night. Bryce Newman had 18 points and senior Jevin Redman had 10.
The Wildcats now head to Carmi-White County Illinois to play in the Carmi-White Invitational this week. The Cats will play Fairfield on Tuesday, Carmi on Friday, and Harrisburg on Saturday night.